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School uniforms, again
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Opponents of school uniforms in general or just the one proposed by Bryan County School administrators can relax for a while, now that the BoE voted against approving the policy at Thursday’s meeting.

But it seems likely the same policy, or a similar one will be back on an agenda sometime next year. And unless school officials do a better job of getting parents in the loop, the same controversy could unfold next time around. And that’s too bad, because it seems to us that school officials need to be more focused on what kids learn than they have been on what they wear.

But that’s not to say we’re opposed to uniforms. We believe there's ample reason to support a uniform policy that is fair to kids and parents.

For example, such a policy may help eliminate some of the fashion statements which are obviously plaguing school administrators.

And you only had to be at Thursday’s BoE meeting to hear what some of those fashion statements were. T-shirts bearing lewd or otherwise objectionable messages and clothing that left little to the imagination were just some of the problems outlined by Richmond Hill High School Principal Charles Spann.

And every principal who spoke at the meeting talked of the time it took out of the school day to deal with those who violated the current dress code.

What’s more, uniforms could go a long way toward diminishing the differences in dress between those who have and those who don’t. We think that’s important. Because while most adults have learned enough through experience not to judge a person by the cost of his or her clothes, some kids are a different story. And it’s tough enough being poor in a community where so many are fortunate without being constantly reminded of it at school – which is the only avenue those who are poor have to escape their poverty.

On the flip side, opponents of the most recent policy up for a vote raised valid points which should be taken into full account by school leaders. White shirts or pants are a bad idea, period. And, to be fair, if administrators think a uniform policy will magically make it easier or less time consuming to deal with kids who want to make "fashion statements," our guess is they’re wrong. Kids being kids – and let's remember they only get to be kids for a short time – some will always figure out ways to circumvent the rules whether they're called a dress code or a uniform policy.

And then there are some who are against uniforms on principle. They believe a mandatory uniform policy abrogates one of their rights as parents – the right to dress their child as they see fit. Some also see school uniforms as one more example of Big Brother government overstepping its bounds.

We understand those concerns as well. But we also believe there are times when government has the obligation to take steps it believes necessary to ensure it can do its job. In this case, the BoE and school administrators are by law bound to do the best they can to educate our kids – and part of that responsibility is providing the best environment possible so our kids can learn.

Those who see this as another example of Big Brother closing in might be well served to spend a day with an administrator charged with enforcing dress codes. They might then decide there’s not enough Big Brother to go around.

To us, the bottom line is administrators and teachers wouldn't support such a move unless they truly thought school uniforms would help make Bryan County's schools more conducive to learning. If that is indeed the case, we should back their effort.

Bryan County News

May 30, 2007

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