School looks at uniforms
By Lynn R. Parks
On the heels of a survey in which 62 percent of responding parents
said that West Seaford Elementary would benefit from a uniform policy,
the school is considering asking pupils to eliminate T-shirts, sandals
and blue jeans from their school wardrobes. If approved, the school
would be the first in the district and one of only six public schools
in the state to adopt a school uniform.
Principal Ed Taylor and parent Mary Ann Gaskin, PTA member and chairwoman
of the committee formulating the proposal, presented a tentative
plan to the Seaford District School Board Monday night. Current
district policy requires only that students "dress and groom themselves
in an appropriate manner." But it also allows individual schools
to establish dress codes "which are intended to facilitate safe
and healthy conditions."
Under the West Seaford plan, children would be asked to wear khaki
or navy blue (not denim) pants, shorts, skirts or jumpers. Tops,
which could be oxford or polo shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks or vests,
would have to be navy blue, light blue, white or yellow. Shoes would
have to tie.
Students would not be punished for dressing out of uniform, nor
would they miss any class time or be sent to the office. Taylor
would send letters home to parents of any children he sees dressed
not according to the code, reminding them of school policy. In addition,
parents could request that their children not be required to adhere
to the policy; however, certain dress limitations would still apply.
Appropriate clothing could be purchased from any store. However,
Karen Caldro, second-grade teacher and a member of the committee
that is studying the proposal, has been in touch with the Dickie
clothing company, whose catalog features just what the school is
suggesting. Caldro said that the company has agreed to set up a
computer in the school through which items of clothing could be
ordered online from its catalog. Prices range from $12 to $17 for
boy's pants, $14 to $20 for girl's pants and $7 to $10 for shirts.
The school would also keep a selection of Dickie clothing in all
styles and sizes for children to try on.
Teachers, whose contract forbids the district from telling them
what to wear, would not be affected by the policy. However, Caldro
said that she will dress according to the uniform standards. "I
have no problem with it. I already wear a lot of khaki and blues,"
she said. "But some teachers say, 'I'm not dressing in uniform.'
"I am not personally in favor of a dress code," said a teacher at
West Seaford who did not want to be identified. "But I feel that
if we require our students to dress that way, teachers should dress
that way. If we have a uniform, I will dress that way. Otherwise,
it's not fair [to the children]."
Promoting team spirit
Caldro said that clothing that children wear now "gets in the way
of learning." She said that she has seen children in her classroom
who, unable to afford name-brand clothing, are ridiculed by other
children. "We should have a team spirit," she said. "The classroom
should be a learning team. All children should feel like they belong
and now, some feel like they don't belong. They are withdrawn and
are less likely to speak up in class, even when they have good ideas
said that school uniforms lead to improvements in student behavior
and achievement. "We need to borrow some things from private schools
that are successful, and one thing is school uniforms," he said.
But the teacher who did not want to be identified disagrees. "I have
no problem with the way the children in my classroom dress," she said.
"Our efforts would be better spent focusing on improving our curriculum
and instructional delivery. We need to improve our students' motivation
to learn, and that is not necessarily linked to dress."
Already in place
Fairview Elementary School, Dover, part of the Capital School District,
instituted a uniform policy at the beginning of this school year.
Students can wear navy blue or khaki shorts, pants, skirts and jumpers.
With those they wear navy blue polo shirts, sweaters, vests and turtlenecks,
light blue oxford shirts or white polo or oxford shirts, sweaters,
turtlenecks and vests. No labels or logos (except the Fairview School
logo) are permitted and belts must be worn with all pants that have
belt loops. Dark leather shoes are recommended but sneakers are permitted.
Similar to West Seaford's proposal, Fairview's dress code contains
no punishment for children who do not wear the uniform. However, those
who arrive at school in blue jeans or other unacceptable clothing
are made to change clothes. Principal David Vaughan also sends a letter
home reminding the parents of the dress code. Compliance rate is about
98 percent, he said.
According to principal David Vaughan, referrals of students to the
office for bad behavior has dropped nearly 50 percent, from 60 in
September through March 27 last year to 36 for the same period of
time this year. In addition, he said, "it is the perception of the
staff and of parents that attitudes have changed. Kids are more professional
and are doing better. They are trying harder and are more cooperative."
Vaughan said that once a month, the school had "dress down day," when
the students can dress out of uniform.
"The teachers tell me that on those days, all hell breaks loose,"
But the unidentified West Seaford teacher argued that statements that
changes in behavior and attitude come with uniforms are based on teachers'
perceptions in the classroom.
"There is no way to quantify that," she said. "Perhaps the teachers'
attitudes toward the children have changed, because of the way the
children are dressed."
A recent survey measured Fairview teachers', parents' and students'
feelings about the uniform.
When asked if they were satisfied with the dress code, 32 members
of the staff said yes while 9 said they were somewhat satisfied. None
answered that they were dissatisfied. But at the same time, only five
out of the 41 teachers said that they feel that staff should adhere
to the dress code.
Sixty-one of 72 first graders said that wearing a uniform makes them
better students. But only 17 of 64 fourth graders answered yes to
the same question.
Of nearly 200 parents who responded to the survey, 142 said that they
would like to see the uniform code continue. And 117 said that buying
school clothes is less expensive with a uniform system.
Over 50 people attended a public forum on school uniforms held March
17 at West Seaford. Of those, Taylor said, about eight spoke against
the proposal. A recent request to the school's PTA members for people
willing to serve on the committee studying the proposal resulted in
In November, parents were asked to complete a survey on uniforms.
Of 330 who responded, 203 said that the school would benefit from
a uniform policy and 141 said that students would be happy wearing
uniforms. A second survey of parents of current second-graders, first-graders
and kindergartners will be taken in mid-April. Taylor said that a
decision regarding the proposal will be made before the end of this
"School is a community effort," Caldro said. "We want all our children
to work together as a team. Many have the opportunity to be in Scouts
or sports, to feel like part of a special team. But there are some
children we have who have never been part of a team. We want them
to feel that they are part of something special."
"As a public school we should recognize diversity within our students,"
said the unidentified West Seaford teacher. "We should promote diversity,
not attempt to restrict it."