Thursday, February 26, 2009

Uniforms in Elementary Schools

Per a request, a thread of its own.

(I don't think I'll start a separate thread for APP PCP time as Andrew S. has created a new Seattle APP Elementary School Discussion Blog, located at http://discussapp.blogspot.com/. The only reason is just because it is discussion related to only one school. However, if enough people want it, I'll put it in later today.)

(Don't we love snow days?!)

41 comments:

adhoc said...

I don't have a strong opinion either way on uniforms. I wouldn't advocate for them, but I don't mind them either. Personally, I think they are convenient and they look nice. I wouldn't mind my kids wearing them in elementary school. My elementary age son is always trying to "fit in". If all of the boys are wearing shorts in the winter, then he does too. If they all wear their baseball hats backwards, then he does too. If they all wore uniforms he would too. I think uniforms can be an equalizer in schools and not only from a socio economic perspective, but also from a "popularity" perspective. If all kids are wearing the same thing then nobody can be more popular due to their trendy clothes/fashion sense.

I would only go for uniforms in elementary though. By middle school kids are really trying to express themselves and show their individuality and uniqueness. They identify temsselves by their clothes (skaters, goth, preppy, designer, athletic, etc). Using clothes and hair cuts as their choice of self expression is a much better alternative to permanent forms of self expression like body piercing, tatoos, etc.

hschinske said...

I think the default should be no uniforms unless there is a strong, reasonable voice *for* uniforms. Can anyone here speak for what the current and continuing Thurgood Marshall and T.T. Minor communities actually want (assuming there is any consensus, which I admit is a large assumption)? I'd put their wishes higher on the priority list than some theories coming down from above about why uniforms are good/not good for this/that population.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

TAF Academy does something sort of in-between. They have a "business casual" dress code, which is stricter than the no-bellybutton dress codes that most public schools have. I'm not sure I like this, it feels very restrictive, but it might be an acceptable compromise.

I agree that by middle school, the need for self expression starts to outweigh parent convenience. However, that's also where the gang issues start to show up. How can we draw a line that prohibits gang-signfying dress, while allowing healthy rebellion and self expression? There was a story in the news about a kid somewhere in the midwest who wasn't being allowed to attend school because he had a mohawk. That is NOT ok.

I also worry about uniforms because I just can't imagine my girly-girl, who refused to wear pants to go play in the snow this morning, being happy wearing blue slacks and a white polo every day. I can't imagine even being able to get her to put that on once, let alone every day. She hasn't worn pants in a year, and she isn't a big fan of solid colors or plaid (likes floral prints). For some parents, uniforms may reduce clothing disagreements. I expect that they would increase those disagreements in my house.

And then there's the social-marker issue. It's interesting that schools choose uniforms to even out social status within the school, and end up marking themselves as low status in the community at large. The reputation public school uniforms have, true or not, is that a schools with uniforms have them because they have large numbers of students for whom poverty and homelessness are realities, that they are concerned about gang-related clothing (in Kindergarten?!?!), that they are willing to sacrifice individual freedom for security, which probably means that security is a problem, that they value conformity and rules and discourage the questioning of authority. This may or may not all be true, but that is the impression out there among large numbers of families. You know, I don't really want to send my 5 year old into an environment where gang colors are a concern. Maybe that makes me an elitist. So be it.

It's possible that APP having uniforms could help change that impression over time. Lots of private schools have uniforms, and don't have this reputation. It's also possible that it would mark Lowell and T Marshall as low-status schools, and drive middle-class families away from at least their general ed programs, if not APP.

I also think that a lot of families involved in APP have a strong philosophical objection to a public school (the government) telling their child how to dress. I tend to agree, but hold the position less strongly than some. For some families, this is a very big deal, and the design team needs to recognize this. It's not just "blue slacks" but "freedom of expression" to these families, and an issue they take seriously.

JMT said...

I don't mean to trivialize this issue for those who are passionate about it, but I would be more enthused about the idea of uniforms if the uniforms themselves were more inspiring.

On the Marshall tour a couple of weeks ago, Ms. Todd (current Marshall principal) explained her take on uniforms. She said that in her view the uniforms weren't about equalizing the socio-economic playing field at all, but it was about feeling like you belong to Marshall. When you put on your uniform you are ready to learn and you carry yourself with dignity knowing that you represent Marshall (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the essence of it).

I can understand that and don't really have an objection to putting my children in a uniform for those reasons. I just think the uniforms themselves do not inspire much pride. I realize it may not be remotely practical here, but when I think of school uniforms in England, which are in fact different for each school, I think about a uniform that represents school pride. I would rather see everyone in a Marshall T-shirt or sweatshirt than the plain white & blue with any old sweatshirt or sweater over it that could be any school, anywhere.

It's purely aesthetics for me, and as a result I find it difficult to make a strong case for or against uniforms.

jamie said...

Also for dress loving girls, in the UK they have a "summer uniform" for warm months that includes a cute gingham dress, like this: http://www.localschooluniform.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=15&products_id=55&zenid=8uh8t2pd53luj9pqh165l9v813

I don't really know why American public school uniforms have to be so awful. There are colors besides navy, red and khaki.

dj said...

This for me is one of those things where I would agree with anyone who said that uniforms/no uniforms is not the most important thing about a school, but that in this small area I have an extremely strong opinion. It is sort of the way that I feel about the failure of people to return their shopping carts to the shopping cart corral.

I hate uniforms. I generally hate the style. I am not preppy. I generally hate the aesthetics. I don't enjoy having everyone look the same. My child went to a uniform school and I did not perceive the supposed benefits of uniforms at the school, but I did notice parents from other schools cringing in just the way TechyMom describes about what the fact that your child's public school requires uniforms signals about that school.

I do not care about the issues other parents have battling their kids about their clothes. We all have our parenting crosses to bear. I think that the argument that there are clothes that are "appropriate" for school is entirely circular.

But at the end of the day, what I resent more than anything is the idea that what my child looks like is a concern for anyone but my child and perhaps me and my partner. I resent the idea that my child is evidently assumed to be incapable of treating other kids with respect and kindness unless everyone looks the same. I resent the idea that something as basic as a person's physical appearance would determine his or her access to public services.

I want to wear red.

You cannot wear red.

Why can't I wear red?

Red is a forbidden color.

It's dystopian to me.

agibean said...

I grew up going to an east coast Catholic school and swore that as an adult I would NEVER send my kids to a school with uniforms. And 6 years ago, when my older daughter came out here ready to start her last year of middle school, she chose one...with uniforms.

As I quickly learned though, we weren't talking about those awful plaid skirts that look terrible on anyone over 6, but generic black or navy (I think) pants OR skirts, and a white shirt of any plain style as long as it had a collar. And she reasoned, as a hard-to-wake-up person, that they just might help her get ready on time. And they did.

Now, did the uniforms REALLY erase class issues? Of course not. Did they REALLY keep kids on track to be ready to work if they were dressed alike? Of course not. But the kids were't completely identical-there was freedom as far as hairstyles, accessories (to a point) and plenty of dress as you like days.

So I no longer have very strong feelings about this, though if only that awful plaid crap was required, I'd get out the protest signs.

As as for "all the same"-well, my younger daughter was fussing about that the other day, we went online at Land's End and found more than 10 different styles of pants, almost 20 different skirt/skorts, and so on. There really are different options, even though the colors would be restricted. Even she was (almost) ok with the idea after seeing that.

Still, in the end, given all the other issues going on, uniforms are just not in my top 10.

adhoc said...

I don't see how wearing a uniform is any more dystopian than everything else kids have to do all togehter, all the same. Like eating lunch at the same time in the same place, like being required to write with a No.2 pencil, or read silently for 45 minutes, or being required to arrive at school at the same time each day, or needing a hall pass to use the restroom, or being required to do jumping jacks with the rest of your PE class.

Teacher I want to leave school early today.

you can not leave school early today. You must leave when everyone else leaves.

Why can't I leave early?

It is forbidden without your parent being here to pick you up and sign you out.

Dystopian??????

amsiegel said...

A simple answer, ad hoc: because dress is both a self-definitional and communicative activity. Asking a student to wear particular clothing is not like asking them to eat at particular times or to work on a particular writing assignment, it's like telling them what to eat or what ideas to express in the writing assignment.

Jamal said...
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zb said...

I've always found uniforms dystopian in a public school. I like the comparison to "what ideas to express" or "what to eat."

And, why is this OK in a private school? because the notion of private means that you can be told all those things (in my uniform-requiring private school, we were required to eat the lunch provided by the school -- or at least pretend to -- bringing your own lunch was not allowed). If you didn't want to do that, you could choose not to go to the school.

So, I have a weird conjunction -- I actually have no problem with uniforms, liked wearing them, wouldn't mind my children wearing them. But, not in a public school.

I really think that any school to which one can be involuntarily assigned should not have school uniforms. OK for the "alternatives", if they choose, but not for the neighborhood schools. I hope they decide to drop the school uniforms at Marshall & Lowell.

Jamal said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

So will Lowell not have uniforms because they never did (even if TT Minor did) and Marshall have uniforms because they do (even if Lowell never did)? Or should both schools go the same way, whether it's uniforms or not?

zb said...

"In our city school system you aren't forced to accept any one school. If some schools have a uniforms policy which conflicts with your family values, then you can choose another school during open enrollment."

Yeah, I want to get rid of this, too. I want there to be a default school assignment for every child based on where they live, and I want those schools to have to follow a certain set of standards (which means no uniform).

And, although it is likely that one could use the open enrollment system to avoid a school with uniforms, it is not guaranteed in our system. It's possible that a child could be assigned to that school (Marshall or TT Minor) without choosing it in the open enrollment period. I know that there were families who were assigned to TT Minor when TT Minor was not on their list. And, as other have noted, there's a correlation between the uniform schools and the under-enrolled schools.

On writing this comment, I realize that my opposition to uniforms is part of a bigger picture. I do not favor a model where "neighborhood" schools are allowed drift into niche models, and then to answer that that's OK, 'cause people an always choose to attend another school.

I think the SPS is drifting towards the model I prefer -- with reference/neighborhood schools, which would have standard sets of offerings and "non-reference" schools (which would include the alternatives/non-traditional schools, and would be all choice schools). Uniforms at the non-reference schools is OK as might be other requirements.

zb said...

"I think with the blend we must be sensitive to more kids having the school lunches than the past, so as to not make that another point of divisiveness."

Yes, people should be sensitive, but I don't think the situation could be resolved by *requiring* everyone who attends a public school to buy the school lunch (as my private school did).

jason said...

Jamal -

Please keep in mind that APP parents cannot just change schools. If you're "north" you go to Lowell and if you're "south" you go to Thurgood Marshall.

For me, as an APP parent, this is just yet another "surprise" that's been thrown at us. People may be wondering why many of us are reacting so strongly, but we've had our school disrupted (I know others have too), we have potentially had our start time moved to 8am, we now have talk of uniforms, talk of shared classrooms. Where does it all end? I keep wondering what is looming around the corner...

I hope APP parents won't stop posting here because of Keepin On's comments on the other thread. APP parents have just as much of a right to post as anyone else.

I also appreciate Melissa's insights into APP. I would like to keep reading her thoughts, as well as Charlie's, on these issues. I am concerned that moving all this talk to the new sight will cause us to miss out on that. Also, what happens to APP may happen to others. I have heard chatter that other elementary schools are being added to the 8am start time instead of Lowell and TMarshall.

Ben said...

If the new Marshall has uniforms it will only be because the old Marshall did/does. And even though the new Marshall will be 2/3 ex-Lowellers, the Lowell kids (I'm afraid) are seen as guests. Their "hosts" want uniforms, so there you are: uniforms. Then there will be pressure to get uniforms at Lowell, to avoid any further comparisons between Lowell and the new Marshall.

hschinske said...

"It's possible that a child could be assigned to that school (Marshall or TT Minor) without choosing it in the open enrollment period."

It's not only possible, it's probably true for the majority of the kids in those schools.

For the 2007-2008 school year, 1.8% of students at Thurgood Marshall had listed the school as their first choice. http://www.seattleschools.org/area/siso/test/demographic/2007/212.pdf. For the 2008-2009 year (same URL, change the year to 2008), almost 31% did, but that's still 70% who didn't.

For T.T. Minor, 25% chose it in 2008-2009, 12.8% the year before. http://www.seattleschools.org/area/siso/test/demographic/2008/254.pdf

Helen Schinske

Mercermom said...

I disagree that the new APP population at Marshall is going to be seen as "guests." Yes, APP families will be sensitive to not being seen as taking over and insisting that anything that is different from Lowell must go. But I'm sure the APP representatives on the design team at Lowell are also sensitive to not treating incoming T.T. Minor students like they are guests who must conform to all current Lowell standards. What I heard on my tour of Marshall is that the Design Team is trying to balance how important the uniform requirement is to the current Marshall population, what would be the detriment if it were eliminated, and how would that balance against the inconvenience to incoming students.

Baffled said...

There are plenty crazy people on this blog mixed in with the okay ones. Hysteria about a uniform but only at public school where it's a sign of government invasion of freedom. Make all schools the same and no choices, oh except for the few the "government" district agrees to designate "alternative" (can we please get you to include APP in that opinion?)

And thinks its like food. Well when you are poor and that food is all you have, you are stuck with it. If we can't afford private school but public school is free should we be stuck with it? Of course not. Private schools with their mandatory foods are still the parents choice not the governments. As a parent we each have a say in the matter of school uniforms.

Dystopia? "wierd conjunction"? "self-definitional"? "communicative" is all NUTS.

If you don't want uniforms just dress your kid appropriately and send them every day. Better yet drive them at nine o'clock. What can they do, kick out half the school?

none1111 said...

Jamal said: "As to self definition, believe you me that these kids of mine have got the hair styles going on. Don't get me started on the shoes."

Can I assume that your kids are not currently at Lowell? I would never be so bold as to say there is NONE of this at Lowell, but I will say that I haven't seen it, nor have my kids. And that has made me very happy.

Jamal also said: "...Beacon Hill Elementary started having uniforms some years ago specifically due to the gang colors issue. There were fights on the bus and the playground by little kids whose parents had obviously indoctrinated them to that gang lifestyle, and they already knew. Gang parents also send their kids to public school. This neighbor tells me Beacon Hill had the usual playground fights as at all schools, but brought up to the next level when little kids told their older brothers to come after school to get involved with their altercation with a kid from a family in a rival gang. That takes the violence to a dangerous level in an area nearby the school."

My emphasis.

This stuff scares the crap out of me. And many other parents who just won't say so out in public. First, the fact that you and your neighbor believe playground fights are normal, and happen at all schools saddens me greatly. I haven't heard about this at Lowell *at*all* over the past few years. I'm sure there are disagreements and conflicts, but fighting? Not that I'm aware of. Certainly no older siblings involved! Many of the conflict mediators (older kids on the playground trained to help other kids resolve problems) have never had a single conflict to deal with!

Please tell me that Beacon Hill is an isolated case, or at least that this behavior doesn't exist at TTM!

zb said...

I peaked in on the APP blog, and was pleased to see the constructive suggestions people are making for trying to integrate the school populations in a way that benefits everyone at the schools, wile protecting the core needs of the APP program (accelerated education).

But, shouldn't the entire school populations at the integrated schools needs to be included, to make the process effective?

I'm more than a little eeked out by parents who seem to be advocating for APP because it provided an opportunity to isolate their kids from other populations, rather than because of their educational needs. The isolation, for me, is the least desirable part of accelerated learning, and I accept only when it's necessary to satisfy my children's educational needs.

Keepin'On said...

For goodness sakes Jason, I didn't say don't post here anymore if you are from APP, I merely asked if the moderators could create a new spot/blog/topic/thread for APP concerns as a clearinghouse type thing.

It may not have occurred to you, but we "regular" parents do know what is going on and recognise that what happens to one group may happen to all - we just get a bit perplexed by how every single thread on this blog/site is taken over by "how will this affect APP" . Example - this thread deals specifically with the idea of uniforms in elementary schools, and you turn it into "APP parents are being discouraged from posting here". What does that have to do with uniforms?

The thread I was posting on related specifically to start times, and high schools. That thread was completely taken over by APP. like they are the only ones affected by this. They are not.

I can't imagine that APP parents are such delicate flowers that they will feel intimidated to post on this site.

Sheesh.

zb said...

Oops, I didn't say that people want isolation more than education, just that education is what motivates and justifies the APP program. The isolation is an undesired (from my point of view, but also from the district's) side effect. If there are ways to produce the appropriate education while avoiding the isolation, that's a desirable result, and, I believe, the goal of the design teams.

Danny K said...

Honestly? If they make the academic programs strong and well-developed and make sure they have good teachers and staff, it doesn't matter what the uniform policy is. If it's a strong school, uniforms will be seen as part of that strength; if it's a weak or problematic school, uniforms will be a badge of weakness. Most elementary school kids won't mind either way.

I hope parents are not spending too much time worrying about this instead of something actually relevant to education.

Jamal said...
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dj said...
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adhoc said...

Helen and ZB the only kids that would receive a mandatory assignment to TM are kids whose families did not list any school on the enrollment form (and yes, there are some families that do not list a school), families who did not put enough school choices on their enrollment form, and families that did not apply during open enrollment and had little to no choice left afterward.

Lets say you go to the enrollment center and enroll your child in SPS, but do not list a particular school on your enrollment form. You will get a manditory assignment to your reference school, which may be TM.

Lets say you go to the enrollment center and fill out an enrollment form and list ony 3 choices...Stevens, McGilvra, TOPS. If you don't get into any of these three schools you will get a mandatory assignment to your reference school assuming it has space. If your reference school is TM and TM has space you will be assigned there.

Lets say you miss open enrollment and enrol your child late. There will be very little space left in popular schools. You may have to take TM.

There is no limit to how many schools you can list on your enrollment form. You can add an addendum if you run out of space. You could list every school in the district and every alt school too if you wanted to.

So yes, some kids do get a mandatory assignment to Marshall but it's easily avoided by simply applying on time and listing your school choices.

As for fighting on the play ground and older sibs coming to defend younger sibs. Thank goodness I've never seen or heard of it in elementary or MS up north. My kids went to AEII/TC and Bryant. I never heard of a single fight at either school, ever. I hear about things like one boy tackling another boy a bit to hard when they play football at recess. But these boys are all good freinds -not enemies trying to hurt each other. My eldest is in a middle school in Shoreline. No fights there either. No gangs. Nothing. Disagreements, yes. Cursing, yes. Expressing themselves via dress, hair styles, yes. But never violence.

Tom said...

none1111

Fights happen at all schools. While my son was attending Lowell 4 years ago, he was picked up and thrown to the ground as part of an argument about soccer. He was scraped up, and I was upset. He is short, slender, and not very athletic. The other child towered above him. However, the other kids advocated for him, and he did not need my help to resolve the fight. The anti-bullying curricula found in in most of our schools works.

My son also attended Beacon Hill for 4 years. He was never involved in a fight there. There were no gang issues that I was aware of. The PTA was at least as active as Lowell (although we certainly did not raise the same amount of money). He wore the uniform. We embraced the uniform. I do not think it was terrible, but I also don't think it was necessary. It just was not a big deal.

I do have an opinion about Lowell and TM uniform policy (although not being a parent there anymore makes my opinion not that relevant). I think if TM has a uniform and Lowell does not, the TM APP families will feel further ostracized. Too many changes at one time. Sometimes it is the least significant changes that turn out to be the straws that break the camels back.

Jamal said...

Hello, hello, let's have no panic or misunderstanding. There's no epidemic of violence here. My kids have never had a problem in school. They have told me at times, maybe once a year or two, of an incident on the playground which usually involves a kid who is known having some emotional problems. The teacher intervenes and it gets resolved. No sibs called, no gangs. I'm taking these messages off to give no more fuel to the stereotype here of bad south end schools by deliberate misquoting. What it said was one one story given by one neighbor to one parent about one school that used uniforms and their reasons why. If you all can't get that straight by the third try then, goodbye from me.

Tom said...

"So yes, some kids do get a mandatory assignment to Marshall but it's easily avoided by simply applying on time and listing your school choices."

That simply is not true. Our kindergartner received mandatory assignment this year. We listed 10 choices (that is how many the form holds) - 6 of them in our cluster. We live at the far end of our cluster; only the house around the corner is more of an outlier. The distance tie-breaker does not work for us; his sibling is in middle school. We were just out of luck.

adhoc said...

Tom just because you got assigned to Marshall does not make my statement untrue. You could have listed more than 10 schools on your enrollment form. In fact you can list as many choices as you want - just ask for an addendum to the enrollment form. You can list every school in the district if you want to. You may have to drive outside of your cluster if all of your cluster schools are full, or you can choose an alternative school with transportation if you don't want to drive, but you would not have to take Marshall.

There are PLENTY of good traditional schools as well alt schools that have no wait list at all.

north seattle mom said...

Both Tom and Adhoc are right.

You can avoid a mandatory assignment with a lot of creative footwork AND

If you live on the very edges of the QA, NW, NE or Central clusters, you MUST do an extraordinary amount of very creative footwork to get any choice school.

The dead zones are real and the normal rules don't apply if you are unfortunate enough to live in a dead zone and not get a high enough lottery number to qualify for one of the good alt schools with transportation.

The bottom line is that the choice system makes winners and losers both of schools and of addresses. Understanding the system the way I do, I never would have purchased my home.

hschinske said...

I didn't mean to imply that there are hordes of kids at Marshall who are there due to mandatory assignment. All I meant was that Marshall and T.T. Minor were not generally people's first-choice schools, which suggests to me that there may be a lot of parents who are not particularly invested in the details such as uniforms. I could be wrong about that, of course, but that's what the numbers suggest to me as likely.

Helen Schinske

tv said...

I'm not opposed to the uniform policies that are proposed for Lowell/T.T. Minor and Thurgood-Marshall students in principle. I wore a uniform to school from 8th to 12th grade and it made it a lot easier to get dressed in the morning. It also did reduce some of the inequities among students (although not all--it was easy to tell who was who when some kids had one navy blue cardigan and others had multiple Izod cardigans).

What I am opposed to is the way that this information was relayed to the parents (specifically Lowell) as a mention in an email--as if we all even knew this was on the table. Uniforms were never discussed as part of the package for this school when the Lowell/T.T. Minor split went through. (It was brought up for Thurgood-Marshall.)

I agree with Jason. I think many parents with students at Lowell, myself included, are weary of being blindsided with new information every day about the changes.

In the last two weeks, we've discovered that we may have an 8 a.m. bell time in spite of the fact that our transportation director still hasn't figured out how to get Lowell students to school on time for a 9 a.m. bell. Then the uniforms. Then the school's name change. (This hasn't been officially decided or announced--but somehow my daughter knows about it.)

I'm sure there'll be something else on Monday ... sigh

agibean said...

I just asked my daughter if she's heard rumors of a name change, and she has--the kids she's heard it from are saying THEY'VE heard it's going to be called..."East High".

That should sound very familiar to anyone with a girl under 12-it's the name of the school in High School Musical.

So much is predicated on rumor on these boards...Julie has been very forthcoming about the changes, and I think she'd have mentioned a name change by now if it was even on the table. I suspect that one kid told another who told another and suddenly we have parents freaking out about a name change.

I do know that with the New School last year, there was a months-long process involved in chaging the name, including a very specific set of rules that explained why it could not be called this or that. I don't believe that the district, nor the design team can just change the name without any kind of notice. It may have only been at the New School, but parent input was required for this.

Tom said...

I did not intend to indicate that my kindergartner goes to Marshall. He goes to Graham Hill (out of cluster but the closest school to our house AND not full with only 26 kids in his K class - does anyone really have that average K class of 23 students?). He did not get into any of the 6 schools we put down for the SE cluster, nor any of the other programs we applied for.

I think this is a larger issue. Anyone in the city who is at the edge of a cluster or reference area (we are both), has a problem. Hopefully this will be addressed in the new assignment plan.

JMT said...

So here is the recommendation from the Design Team for Marshall (posted by Julie B. on the Lowell Link):

• Our recommendation is that Thurgood Marshall not be a uniform school next year. Reflecting our namesake’s belief in the importance of education in every student’s life, the team is making a recommendation regarding staff and student dress. The mission of any school is to provide the academic, social, and emotional support to students so that they become fully active and successful citizens in our society. As such, we recommend that all students dress in “work casual” clothing Monday through Thursday. This would include slacks, corduroys, cotton twill pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts of any color. All shirts need to have sleeves. We ask that jeans, sweat pants, and graphic tees not be part of student dress. Fridays will be Spirit Day. All students and staff are encouraged to wear their Thurgood Marshall School t-shirts and any bottom of their choice including jeans. The design team makes this recommendation as a reflection of Thurgood Marshall School’s educational mission. We ask that all stakeholders recognize this as a mutual compromise so that our focus can be on what is truly the important work of students and staff.

dj said...

Said this on the APP blog as well (so apologies for repeated viewings by dual subscribers), but as someone with extremely strong feelings on this issue (duh), I can deal with the TM recommendation. This goes through, I shut up.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't really have any skin in the game here because my kids are out of elementary school. I would just like to see the debate and discussion stand on a shared reality.

First, I understand that it is a long-standing tradtion at private schools and at schools in other nations for students of all ages to wear uniforms. The standard practice in the United States, however, is that public schools do not require uniforms. The standard practice in Seattle in particular is to not require uniforms. So the whole "standard practice" argument in favor of uniforms really falls down there.

Not that we have to follow any standard practices, but let's not have any disagreement or misrepresentation of what the standard practice really is.

Second, of all of the schools that have chosen to adopt uniforms only one is north of downtown, Northgate. While there are some strong schools with the uniforms, here in Seattle uniform policies are highly correlated with struggling schools. Call it good or call it bad, but that's the fact.

Third, my daughters struggled (and continue to struggle) with the dress code at Washington, strictly enforced by Ms Jones. One was told to remove a floral scarf because it could be interpreted as gangwear. Seriously. I'm not sure which gang wears floral patterns, but the prohibition is apparently against all scarves or something.

A narrow and strictly enforced dress code achieves many of the same goals as a uniform and probably doesn't require much more enforcement effort.

And what are those goals? So long as the student's appearance does not create a distraction or a safety hazard, then who cares what they wear? We cede our rights to the institution insofar as necessary for the institution to accomplish its purpose and no more. Does the preservation of our rights not represent a goal at least as high as any we hope to achieve with uniforms?

Let's also remember the limitations on choice for a number of students and families. The Choice System may not offer other schools they can attend without significant hardship.

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The design team makes this recommendation as a reflection of Thurgood Marshall School’s educational mission.
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