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School uniform decision to be announced in April

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:13 am

LADYSMITH—During a forum on a proposal to require school uniforms, a top school official said the Caroline County School Board will probably announce a decision in April.

The board conducted a uniform forum at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Ladysmith on Dec. 17.

The forum provided parents and students with information about the possibility of uniforms. It also was a time for parents and students to give their opinions to the board and uniform committee.

According to Gregory Killough, superintendent for Caroline schools, a recommendation concerning the adoption of the dress code will be made to the board in February, followed by a public forum in March. A final decision will be reached in March, and an announcement will be made in April.

Killough, began the meeting by introducing Bowling Green Mayor David Storke as the chairman of the 28-person committee that looked into the school uniforms. Storke, a 27-year resident of Caroline County, business owner and parent, noted that the other members of the committee were also residents, business owners, and parents.

Several years ago, according to Storke, the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce had a meeting and members discussed what affects public perception of Caroline, and they listed the school system as a significant factor.

Storke said that he wanted to dispel the rumor that this committee was active because members wanted the schools to advance to “improve their respective businesses.”  Instead, Storke noted, the goal of the committee is to “do what we can to improve our school system.”

The theme that people outside of the county, and some within, have a negative perception of Caroline County Public Schools was again discussed, including how real estate agents tell potential buyers that the schools in the county are below par. “If you go anywhere and talk to folks, they put down our school system,” Storke said, “I for one am tired of being labeled as a sub-par school system.”

School officials handed out information for parents regarding prototypes of the dress code, and price comparisons. The prototype for the uniforms listed polo shirts, khaki’s, and school colors as some of the options. The price comparison hand-out listed several retailers, including Target, Lands’ End, and Kmart, and broke down the cost for individual clothing items in each store.

Residents were given a chance to voice their comments and concerns during the forum; each comment was limited to 3 minutes.

A Caroline High School student was the first to speak on the issue. The student was against the implementation of school uniforms, arguing that “mandating uniforms takes a way a student’s ability to express themselves.”

A middle school student was next to speak, echoing the sentiments of the previous speaker. “One way I express myself is through clothing,” she told the audience.

Many of the parents who attended the forum spoke out against the idea of school uniforms. One parent said identifying themselves through clothing is a way that children “defend themselves.” Another parent noted that uniforms can “have a strain on a person’s self image,” because not everyone wears uniforms in a flattering manner.

Many of the parents agreed with the idea that school uniforms will have a negative effect on self-expression and individuality. Also, many parents identified bullying as the major problem within the schools, and felt that should be the issue that receives the attention, not the uniforms.

There were a few attendees who spoke in favor of the uniforms, however, including county school staff, as well as parents. The parents who were in favor of the uniforms also felt that while uniforms might be a positive change, they were not the cure-all to the problems within the school system.

Killough noted that there might be a blind survey given out to parents and students in the community to see how much support and opposition there is in the county toward the uniforms.

Bullying diminishes when all students wear uniforms. Uniforms remove distractions that are caused by provocative outfits worn by some students, school officials have said.

In March of this year, Storke and a group of local business owners asked the School Board at its regular meeting to consider requiring uniforms for all students to improve the image of Caroline County schools.

By April, the board had created a uniform committee. The committee has met several times. The panel, headed by Killough, is comprised of two parents, two teachers, a principal from each of the school division’s five schools, the director of special education, two board members, and business leaders.