Parents speak out against school uniforms

Laurel Crossman's 8-year-old son loves to wear his Superman T-shirt.

"Maybe when he's wearing his Superman shield, he feels a little smarter," she surmised. "Maybe a little super."

But if a new plan is adopted at Fritsch Elementary School, he won't be wearing the T-shirt to school. He'll join all of his classmates in wearing a standard uniform.

Fritsch is one of three elementary schools in the district considering a move to school uniforms, and others are looking to follow suit in the coming years.

A group of parents from Fritsch Elementary School attended the Carson City School board meeting Tuesday to protest the plan, mainly voicing objection to the financial burden it would place on families.

Students from Fritsch go on to attend Carson Middle School, which adopted the standard school attire this year.

"We're just trying to be supportive of the middle school and to show school spirit," said principal Mary Garey.

In an interview before meeting, Crossman urged parents to consider the rights they are giving up.

"We as parents and a community should decide if school spirit is more important than our kids' rights to choose what they want to wear," she said.

Garey said the school sent out a survey in the fall and received positive feedback from parents.

But Sara Romeo, mother of a kindergartner, said she thought the survey was just gauging public opinion, and didn't expect that it was a vote.

She said proponents are saying it's a cheaper alternative to buying school clothes. She disagrees, saying she gets the bulk of her children's clothes second-hand from family members or as gifts.

"If they're talking $10 a shirt, I can go to Old Navy to the sale rack and get it for $3," Romeo said. "I don't think it's cheaper. And it's a monopoly. You can't use a coupon or get hand-me-downs from a cousin."

She added a sweatshirt for colder days or undershirts in approved colors would add to the that cost.

Garey said the price would likely be in the $5 to $8 range. She said she was approached by parents who were interested in adopting a school uniform. Following the survey, a series meetings was scheduled where a parent committee was selected to direct the process.

Garey said the meetings were advertised in fliers that went home, but were not well attended. She took that to mean parents agreed with the direction of the committee.

"I would like to think they trust us to make decisions in their best interest," she said. "That's what we were trying to do."

The bottom line, Crossman argued, is the bottom line. If parents can't afford the uniforms, who will pay for them?

She suspects a surcharge may be added to the uniforms to create a fund for those who cannot afford to purchase them.

Garey agreed that with a near 25 percent transiency rate at the school there would be a need for financial assistance. She said it would likely come in the form of federal grants.

But Crossman questioned the reasoning.

"When everything is being cut, why are we putting in a new program that needs to be funded?"

Garey said the positive feedback she has received has outweighed the negative, but she wants to be sensitive to all.

"We don't want to create hardships but we want to fulfill the wishes and desires of the other parents," she said. "Balancing that can sometimes be tricky."

Dave Dawley, father of three at Fritsch, spoke out in favor of uniforms at the meeting.

"I think they're awesome," he said. "I have to buy my kids clothes for schools anyway, so I don't see a difference in buying the uniforms."

Surveys at Bordewich-Bray and Mark Twain elementary - which also feed into Carson Middle School - have just gone out, and other elementary schools are looking at similar programs in the future.

Because so many schools are considering the idea, Superintendent Richard Stokes said district officials are looking at ways that would make the process smoother.

Some of those ideas include creating a variety of shirt colors that could be worn at the different schools so a new uniform wouldn't be needed if a student were to transfer.

"We want to do as much as we can within the district to formalize practices that would help at the schools looking at implementing school uniforms at their site," he said. "We do need to be sensitive and open to the concerns people may have."

Garey said plans to select a uniform at Fritsch Elementary School will go on hold until there is a decision on a possible standardization of a district-wide uniform.

Also at the board meeting:

• The school calendar for next year was approved. Traditional schools will begin Aug. 22, despite consideration that had been given to starting the school year earlier in August.

• Bordewich-Bray Elementary School Principal Valerie Dockery gave a presentation about the school's afterschool program, the Dolphin Club, which was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the best of its kind in the nation. She was accompanied by program coordinator Stephanie King, who gave an overview of the club and the partners involved.

• Carson High School's wrestling and girls and boys basketball teams were recognized for each winning the State Academic Award. It is the first time that all the teams taking home the award were from the same school. Since the program was established in 1991, Carson High School has won 84 state academic awards.


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