MILFORD—School uniforms won’t be required for the upcoming school year in Caroline County, but uniform proponents haven’t given up.
In fact, when parents attend open house at the county’s five public schools on Aug. 29, they’ll receive a “quickie” survey about uniforms, said Nancy Carson, chairman of the Caroline School Board.
“We’ll compile the results of the survey and then have a public forum” in which each parent who wants to make a comment will be allowed a speak within a specific number of minutes. A prototype uniform will be available for parents to see—probably a solid color polo shirt and khaki pants for boys and a solid color shirt and skirt for girls.
Virginia’s former state superintendent of public education, Bill Bosher, has met with school officials, including Caroline superintendent Greg Killough and Bowling Green Mayor David Storke, to give them guidance on implementing a uniform policy and has told them not to rush into implementation of uniforms, Carson said.
In March, 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, and it met Wednesday night. The panel, headed by Killough, is comprised of two parents, two teachers, a principal from each of the school division’s schools, the director of special education, two School Board members, and business leaders.
During the meeting on Aug. 14, committee members drew up a mission, purpose and vision for the uniform, Carson said. They developed survey questions and decided on a prototype uniform.
Carson said committee members and the School Board will probably know by November as to whether to proceed with uniforms in Caroline.
“If we go down that path, it will be county-wide,” Carson said. “It will not be an individual school thing.”
Part of the push for uniforms is due to blatant violations of the dress code day in and day out, especially at Caroline High School, Carson and Storke said. When a student violates the dress code, a teacher must send the student to the office. Then, administration must call the parent or guardian, who must bring appropriate clothes to school.
“Last year at the high school career day, I could not believe girls were wearing pajamas and bed room slippers,” Carson said. Some companies participating in career day are potential future employees, she noted.
In light of shootings in schools, uniforms can help increase security at a school, Storke noted. When all students are wearing uniforms, “an intruder stands out like a sore thumb,” he said. “It’s very obvious who is supposed to be there and not be there. If you see a guy who is high school age and he’s got on blue jeans and a hoodie, you know he isn’t supposed to be there.”
“Some people might say we’re taking away individuality and freedom of expression,” Carson said. “But we want students to channel their creativity through the arts, athletics, academics and technology. If they want to make a statement, they can do that through art, academics, athletics and technology.”
Target, Land’s End and Burlington Coat Factory sell school uniforms, and some websites, such as www.frenchtoast.com, sell five outfits for $150, Carson and Storke said. “National statistics say it’s cheaper to buy uniforms than other clothes,” the mayor said.
Kings Dominion and Food Lion employ high school students, who must wear uniforms for work, Carson said.
The mayor said the survey for parents will include questions to this effect, “Do you think the current dress code policy is adequate and evenly enforced? Is peer pressure and bullying a concern to you and your child? How much do you spend per year on clothes for your child: $0 to $100, $101 to $150 (and so on)?”
“Another thing about uniforms is that the most fashionable rich kid looks the same as the poorest kid in class,” Storke said.
In addition, bullying diminishes when all students wear uniforms. “A big boy with camouflage on might intimidate a small boy,” Storke said. “But when you make them dress the same, the intimidation factor dissipates.”
Uniforms remove distractions. “Take a young guy with raging hormones and a young lady dressed in a suggestive way; it affects his concentration,” the mayor said.
“When girls have on tank tops and more skin is showing than necessary, especially with shorts, I think it’s a distraction for everybody,” Carson said. “Children are there to be educated; they aren’t there for a fashion show.”