During their April 17 meeting, the Fairfield County School Board reviewed a presentation on the implementation of a policy mandating school uniforms at Fairfield Central High School beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.
Dr. Janet Mason introduced the presentation, which was given by Carlos Hill, a teacher at the high school who chaired the faculty committee on the transition to school uniforms.
“We’re poised at the right time now at Fairfield Central High School to let this high school become like an academy,” Mason said, “where (students) are there for learning and not just a socialization environment and walking like a penguin to hold your pants up, and girls with the plunging necklines that go almost down to their belly buttons. We need to get rid of all that stuff and make school what school is for.”
Hill reviewed problems with current attire, including sagging pants in male students, which he said represented a “prison culture.” That image, he said, contributes to negative stereotyping of African-American males. In female students, Hill said the problems were low-cut blouses, short skirts, tight jeans and exposed thong underwear — or, he added, no underwear at all. Current female styles, he said, place too much emphasis on sexuality and young females were therefore not appreciated for their minds or their personalities. Hill also said that there was a rising problem of cross-gender dressing among young males.
Hill said school uniforms would be beneficial in identifying intruders on campus and would prevent gang members from wearing gang colors or insignia at school. Dress code violations, he said, would also not be left open to interpretation. Uniforms, Hill said, create a positive learning environment and instill a sense of school pride and discipline. They also reduce peer pressure and increase self-esteem. Uniforms are also a benefit to parents, Hill said, allowing them to spend less money on clothing, as well as help shield poverty. Parents will also know that their child is not being pre-judged by teachers for what they wear.
Parents would be responsible for paying for the clothing, but, Hill noted, they would find it actually less expensive than what many of them are currently paying to keep up with fashion trends. Hardship vouchers would be available for families who qualify, Hill said, and the school plans to solicit donations from local businesses to help offset costs.
Hill said the goal was to prepare students for the real world, to get them prepared for real jobs when they graduate. Given the current trends in clothing, he said, such preparation is difficult.
Board member Marchella Pauling asked if any state or federal guidelines existed that govern mandatory school uniforms. Vernie Williams, one of the District’s attorneys, said there were opt-out provisions for mandatory school uniforms to cover possible religious objections to such a policy. Mason noted that there were three schools in the District where uniforms were the order of the day, but only at the Magnet School were they mandatory.
The proposed uniforms would consist of khaki pants, no more than one size larger than the waist and worn at the waist. No low-rise, sagging, bagging or dragging pants would be allowed, nor would jeans, cargo or carpenter pants. No leggings or sweatpants of any kind would be permitted.
Shirts would consist of polo or golf-style shirts in white or black in short or long sleeves and would be no larger than one size greater than the student’s body size. No logos, designs or pictures other than the school logo would be permitted on the shirts. Undershirts, if necessary, would be solid white. In cold weather, crew-neck sweatshirts and fleece jackets would be acceptable, but would not be worn inside the building once classes begin.
Shoes and boots would be solid black or brown, with no boots rising above the ankles. Athletic shoes, except for P.E. classes, would not be permitted. Heels would be no greater than 2-inches in thickness. Socks or stocking would be solid white, black, brown or navy blue.
The proposed policy would also include a grandfather clause for rising seniors who would be able to opt out of the program, and the school would set aside “relaxed dress days” such as Spirit Week, Homecoming Week, senior privilege days and “First Fridays.”
Mason said the next step would be to survey parents to garner their feedback on the policy, then bring that back before the Board for a vote on the matter.