The mandatory school uniform policy that was tabled by the Bryan County School Board last month is now back on the agenda for the May 24 meeting. The obvious question is, why? Board members received 260 emails from parents, the majority of whom were against the policy. Since they are elected to represent their constituents’ interests, not the superintendent’s, the choice should have been clear.
Actually, this policy should never have been seriously considered in the first place. Dr. Brewer presented it as a "top 10 recommendation" made by parents in a 2006 survey. However, when Dr. Brewer was asked for copies of those surveys or statistical results via a Georgia Open Records Act request, she responded that neither the surveys or the results were retained. In a telephone conversation, she admitted she had not kept any numbers, tallies or other information related to the survey. She could not recall how many surveys were received or how many parents listed mandatory school uniforms as one of their top 10 concerns. School board member Judy Crosby told me she did not remember the totals, either, but she knew the response was "very low."
So for all we know, there might have been 50 surveys returned and 10 people may have indicated they wanted mandatory school uniforms. I’m no statistician, but that is hardly a majority of the parents of the public schools’ 5,500 students.
So the school board is now basing an entire policy on the unsubstantiated word of one individual. If the survey results were so crucial to the board’s policy making, why would the superintendent fail to record the actual results? In this electronic age, it is a simple process to open a word processing document, enter the numbers and save it to your hard drive. Or are parents’ opinions really inconsequential to Dr. Brewer’s own agenda?
Since the scientific research has shown that mandatory school uniforms do not accomplish the objectives set forth by school administrators (i.e., improving student behavior and on-campus security, boosting students’ self-image, reducing peer pressure), it becomes a matter of parental rights. Who has the right to determine what students will wear to school – the parent or the government?
If parents wish to dress their children in uniforms, let them. But do not force parents who object to uniforms to comply. Simply include an opt-out to the policy that recognizes the rights of all parents. It is what school districts such as Miami-Dade County (Florida) have done, and they still report positive results from their uniform policy.
Bryan County Public Schools already have a very restrictive dress code that is enforced militaristically, at least in some schools. Changing the components of the dress code to a certain color shirt and pants will not eliminate the administration’s drive to police students for untucked shirts, missing belts and other heinous infractions that, no doubt, impair blood flow to their brains. Why else would professionals who are paid to teach be so concerned about what students wear to class?
As long as Dr. Brewer continues to foment an attitude of "us" (school administrators and board members) against "them" (parents), this school system will suffer. Its long-standing reputation for parent involvement, which has been key to its success, will falter.
Parents who are concerned about losing their rights over this issue are invited to an information meeting on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Hill Public Library. If you would like to learn more about mandatory school uniforms, visit our web page at http://groups.google.com/group/Bryan-County-PAC.