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Jan 29, 2013 6:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton School Board Considers Student Uniforms

Jan 30, 2013 11:15 AM

Public school can be likened to a catwalk. Students’ clothing choices can often take center stage, subjecting both boys and girls to either praise or criticism. What fashion a student wears can be part of an exciting competition—or an opportunity for bullying.

In recent months, parents and staff members of the Southampton School District have suggested that the School Board reopen a discussion about requiring students to wear uniforms. At a board meeting last week, School Board President Heather McCallion asked that parents, staff members and board members involved in the district’s site-based teams—groups of parents and staff charged with exploring various topics, for shared decision-making—begin looking into the pros and cons of having such a policy. The issue is still in its earliest stages of discussion, and no decision is slated to be made anytime soon, she said.

Gathered around a table in Intermediate School Principal Tim Frazier’s office on Monday, members of the school’s Student Council groaned when they heard the term “school uniform.” Not one of the six students, who are in the fifth through eighth grades, raised their hands when asked if they support introducing a uniform policy. Although they all expressed an aversion to the idea of having to wear the same school outfit day in and day out, most knew the benefits to wearing a uniform and said they wanted to be included in the School Board’s conversation.

According to the students, self-expression is most important when it comes to the way they dress.

Seventh-grader Aaron Napier said he is a complete “sneakerhead” who likes to express himself through the shoes he wears, and he thinks wearing a uniform would be detrimental. “Everyone would be the same, and no one could give any expression of themselves,” he said.

Eighth-grader Pablo Alvarez agreed that it is important that students maintain their individuality, even if uniforms become the norm. “What we wear is a point of expression,” he said. “Without that one and only way to express ourselves in a school environment, it would be important to let students express themselves within the boundary of their uniforms.”

Not only do the students feel that it’s important that they express themselves through their clothing, they said they like the hunt for the newest fashions.

“A school uniform would lower the excitement of going to school,” said sixth-grader Finn Pilaro, who said he likes to wear jeans and T-shirts to school. “I like to shop for clothes at the beginning of a new school year.”

Piggy-backing off Finn’s observations, Pablo said he agrees that a uniform would put a damper on things at school. “Clothing adds diversity and excitement in our school day. If they take that away, they’ll actually be helping make our day to be less vivid and more monotonous,” he said.

The students also suggested that some of their peers may not be respectful of the code and either ignore it or alter their clothing.

Eighth-grader Alec Giufurta and Pablo said at the school they last attended, The Ross School, students trashed their uniforms, and the policy was not strictly enforced. “People hated them,” Alec said. “There was a lot of movement to get the policy repealed, because students can’t express themselves.”

Pablo agreed saying students were abusive of their uniforms. “It doesn’t really show well of the school if they’re not enforcing the policy and go by what the students say,” he added.

On the other hand, the students did understand why a uniform policy could be handy—Julia Kepczynska felt that bullying and low self-esteem could be cut down by introducing uniforms. “Some people like to wear the newest clothes, and sometimes that can lower your self-confidence, because you know you can never get them,” she said. “By wearing a uniform, you’d be saving money and spending your money on one or two uniforms for the entire year, and people wouldn’t get as jealous.”

Not only would a uniform act as an equalizer among students, it would also be less distracting, according to the students.

“Clothing can cause jealousy and aggression and can be really inappropriate,” Julia said, noting that in the fourth grade she was once surprised to see some female students wearing “belly shirts,” and that boys now wear saggy pants. “If done in moderation, and people follow the rules, a uniform policy wouldn’t have to be applied.”

Finn, who lived in Ireland and wore a formal school uniform until he was 9 years old, said his brother likes to wear pink skinny jeans, and people like to make fun of him for it. “Some people can be harsh … but I don’t feel like that happens a lot here,” he added.

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School uniforms?? The school board and the staff of Southampton Schools may want to begin enforcing a dress code for all students before even entertaining the thought of uniforms. Children should be encouraged to have some idividuality before they enter the "real world" and they can do that,within guidelines, now. The teachers,assistants and all other faculty should also take a look at themselves before entering the scholl. I've seen some pretty outrageous outfits lately and they've been on the ...more
By eastendgemini (7), southampton on Feb 1, 13 4:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
Right, cuz nobody who ever wore a school uniform ever became an 'individual'. Individuality doesn't come from whatever trendy outfit you put on. It comes from inside. That's why uniforms force people to become more of an individual by making them stand out from the (uniformed) crowd.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Feb 1, 13 5:05 PM
I agree pretty sad if clothes define who a kid is as an individual and even with a uniform a kid can find ways to be an individual.
By Crankypants (34), SOUTHAMPTON on Feb 2, 13 1:55 PM
I may have leaned towards the uniform a couple of years ago, when my kids were I younger. Not now..but I would like to suggest every school gives a jacket, something basic and classic, to get them thru colder months. One simple warm coat for each student. Many kids have no coats and the school often will try and find one somewhere, at least for loan. We don't get anything at school as far a school shirt etc. It would serve a good purpose in our community.,,kids will be warm and it will a bigger ...more
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on Feb 1, 13 10:50 PM
I think a dress code would serve the school better, for both students and staff.
By joan s (53), hampton bays on Feb 2, 13 8:40 AM
I agree with joan regarding this issue. Instead of looking at the latest
designer clothing perhaps learning about the latest in the educational
world would be more appropriate. I agree with Dr. Boyes' statement
regarding the proper decorum within the school system.
By East Ender (64), Southampton on Feb 2, 13 10:27 AM
"Many kids have no coats"
It is the fashion for kids to not wear coats in winter. Trying to get a teen or tween boy into a winter jacket is a struggle. The boys even wear shorts and a thin hoodie to school when it's 20 degrees outside. They look ridiculous, but kids will be kids.
Most public schools with uniform codes basically have kids wearing polo shirts and docker type pants, not jackets or ties or button down shirts.
By btdt (449), water mill on Feb 2, 13 11:25 AM
No uniform ... go with the dress code .
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Feb 2, 13 12:34 PM
I would LOVE a uniform lots of school have them it makes the parents life so easy and it helps focus more attention on education rather then who has what !!!
By Crankypants (34), SOUTHAMPTON on Feb 2, 13 1:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
How about learning to express yourselves through writing,art, poetry, singing or playing an instrument? I wore a uniform for 2 years and did not for 2 years of high school. Guess where learning was stressed? School is not a fashion show. It is for learning. It is time that our country understands this. Bullying will not stop but it will be reduced...that was my experience. Clothes are a socio economic statement, without that, intelligence is left as a status symbol.
By tee2sea (16), Remsenburg on Feb 3, 13 8:19 AM
2 members liked this comment
What business is it of any teacher as to what my children wear to school? Would the teachers be willing to wear school uniforms? The schools job is not to "equalize" the students- this is a public school if parents want uniforms send your kids to a private school that has them. To the person that thinks that we should give out coats- are you kidding me? The school hits up parents to buy baby wipes & tissues for the classroom when you know that there is plenty of $ in the budget for these items. ...more
By Hamptons Seashell (34), Southampton on Feb 3, 13 2:35 PM