New uniforms policy future style for area students

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

By now, everybody's probably heard the news: county students will be showing

up at their schools come August 2005 wearing a distinctive new look for the area – the school uniform.

As of Feb. 24, the Butler County Board of Education made the decision to

adopt a school uniform dress code. Gone will be baggy multi-zippered camouflage pants, sagging oversized jeans and cropped belly-bearing t-shirt favored by some students. In fact, no t-shirts or jeans - the standard issue for many a local teen - will be allowed.

So, what will the students of the Butler County Public School be wearing come the 2005-2006 school year? How much will the financial investment for parents and guardians be?

And what do parents and students alike think about implementing and enforcing this new school uniform dress code?

These are some of the questions we set out to answer for our readers in today's Lifestyles feature.

We started with the assistance of four student models from W.O. Parmer and Greenville High School and the cooperation of their principals. We tossed in the input of a couple of parents, then dressed our student models in both code-approved clothing purchased from local clothing stores by the newspaper, and clothing items already obtained by their parents.

What to wear?

According to the information sent out to the families of the county's current students, here's what students can wear to school come August:

n Pants must be in navy or khaki, pleated or plain front with no logo showing

on the item and no additional clothing details (i.e., zippers, patches, extra pockets). Both long and short pants are allowed, along with khaki skirts for the girls. Pants are expected to be the correct size and hit at the natural waistline of the wearer, being no more than one to two inches larger than the waist. Likewise, shirts should be neither too snug nor too over-sized.

n Jumpers in khaki are permitted for the female students, to be worn with either a navy or white polo shirt or a white blouse with a Peter Pan-style collar.

n Tops for both boys and girls should be basic polo-style shirts, short or long-sleeved, in navy or white with a collar. Again, no logos should be visible on the shirt.

n Plain belts in black or brown are required. No decision has yet been made for any particular shoe style or color for the students; however, no flip-flops will be allowed on campus. Jackets are not restricted and there has been no decision made on jewelry.

Why the change?

Some parents and students in the county are questioning the necessity of going to a school uniform in the first place. GHS Principal Dr. Kathy Murphy says there are several &uot;compelling&uot; reasons to make the move.

&uot;There is a good, positive aspect to a degree of uniformity at an institution. It can give a sense of collegiality.

It is definitely a way to close the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in your schools. It can also lessen that chasm between different people being able to wear certain styles. And it’s great for recognition purposes when you go on field trips, for example. You know who to look out for as part of your group.

&uot;By the same token, if someone shows up on your campus dressed differently, you know they must be a guest, visitor – or perhaps someone you don’t want there at all. So it’s excellent for identity purposes,&uot; Murphy says.

Safety issues are also a concern that factored into the decision to go to uniforms, the principal says.

&uot;We want to make sure the clothing of our students is not making the wrong kind of statement, one that is associated with the wrong kind of element or organization. And, let’s face it, the extremely baggy styles of clothing we’ve had a problem with work only too well for hiding items no one should have at school. Simply put, if your clothes fit right, it’s hard to conceal something.&uot;

Murphy sees properly fitted uniforms as the key to a successful transition to the new look.

&uot;The board was very adamant we strictly enforce this policy. I think all of the administrators heard that loud and clear. I, for one, intend to be a martinet when it comes to putting it into play at my school because it’s my responsibility to do so.

Let me say, their pants WILL fit, they will wear a belt and there will be no underwear hanging out in my hallways come next year.

There will be none of this three-sizes-too-big clothing being worn. We are all going to have to police that.&uot;

‘It pays to shop around’

While no area clothing stores as yet have a full complement of approved

uniform clothing items, the major department stores in town – Wal-Mart, Goody’s, and Moore’s – all say they will have be fully stocked in advance of the back-to-school rush in the fall.

Amelia McNaughton, mother of six-year-old Anne Claire, a first grader at W. O. Parmer and one of the student models, says she has learned it pays to shop around when you shopping for official back-to-school clothing.

&uot;I have to say I really lucked out at this store in Bay Minette when we were on the road one day. I found some incredible bargains there. That’s where I found the white polo shirt and navy shorts Anne Claire is wearing today,&uot; she explains.

McNaughton also says she has found another &uot;great&uot; resource online, a Website called which specializes in school uniform wear.

"I would advise parents to look around and see what’s out there. Also you have really got to try things on the kids. I am not sure who they design the clothing to fit anymore. Both my children have different body builds and finding bottoms for either of the girls that fit properly is always a challenge,&uot; McNaughton admits.

Karen Owens, mother to six-year-old kindergartner Dedric, agrees with McNaughton’s shopping philosophy. &uot;You see this polo shirt Dedric is wearing? I paid exactly $1.99 for this down at Burke’s Outlet. You would never know it just to look at it.

Now, some stuff is irregular at Burke’s ,so you really have to check the items over. But if you have the time and patience you can find some great buys on the basics.&uot; Owens, who is retired from the military, says she has also found some good school uniform buys at the base exchange at Maxwell.

Because all logos are forbidden on the clothing items, many parents are looking at in-store brands such as Ivy Crew and Y.E.S. at Goody’s and No Boundaries at Wal-Mart which are logo-free.

At Goody’s, the basic Y.E.S. khaki pant runs for $12.98 while a white Ivy Crew polo shirt (adult sizes) is priced for $17.99. Basic belts ran $10-$15. Shorts are comparable to pants in price.

If the customer wants to move up to a stain or wrinkle-resistant pant, prices do go up $5 to $10 per item.

Dickies and Land’s End (available through Sears) also offer logo-free options in school uniform wear.

Murphy sees the complaints some parents have made about forcing them to spend more on school clothes to be without merit. &uot;I honestly think in the long run they will save money – instead of spending more.&uot;

Mixed reviews

The student reviews on the new uniforms are definitely mixed.

Little Anne Claire McNaughton doesn't mind telling you what she thinks of her new regulation navy shorts and white polo shirt.

"I love the top but I hate the bottoms," she says with a decided shake of her head.

&uot;She hates pants with pleats and that has been a problem. I am on the lookout for some plain front pants and shorts since either is acceptable,&uot; says her mom.

LaVeda Cleare, a 16-year-old sophomore at GHS, frankly isn’t thrilled at what she perceives as a loss of her individuality through her limited choice of school clothing.

&uot;I’m somebody who likes wearing different kinds of things everyday, that’s me. I think I am going to get bored wearing the same old stuff day after day. I mean, I feel like somebody is going to tell me they want fries with their order when I am dressed like this,&uot; she says with a wry grin as she motions toward her plain white Ivy crew polo and Y.E.S. khaki pants.

Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Duke, a junior at GHS, sees himself as &uot;a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.&uot;

&uot;That’s what I am comfortable in. Maybe this is harsh of me to say, but I think the adults who are out of school now look at us and say, ‘Sure, let them wear uniforms.’ I don’t think they would have wanted to do this when they were in high school, frankly.&uot;

Both Duke and Cleare are hoping there will be no extensive limitations on the jewelry they are allowed to wear to school.

&uot;Oh, no, that would be terrible…don’t take my earrings away,&uot; says Cleare.

Cleare says she isn’t certain the new uniform policy will be easy to enforce. &uot;I think you are still going to have guys trying to wear sagging pants and that sort of thing.&uot;

While the two high school students aren’t hip on the idea of uniforms, as a mother, Owens says she has absolutely no problem with the idea. &uot;Hey, I wore a uniform in the Air Force for 26 years. I didn’t think twice about it and it’s no big deal to me now.

&uot;I feel like, for a lot of parents, this will take so much hassle out of the process of getting ready in the morning. There won’t be that debate about what the kids are going to wear. And there won’t be that while status logo thing going on, either.&uot;

And in the end, both parents feel families can save money on their children’s uniform-style clothing with a little time and effort on their part.

Dress code in effect

In the meantime, area principals want to remind everyone there is already a dress code policy in place at the school which they strive to strictly enforce.

&uot;We want to remind everyone about our present dress code at school. Shirt tails have to be tucked in and belts have to be worn. Pants, skirts and shorts need to be worn at the natural waistline (no sagging). We need our parents to help us out by making sure the children come to school dressed appropriately,&uot; says W.O. Parmer Principal Carole Teague.

County students who fail to adhere to the current dress code will face punishment, Teague says, with a loss of privileges for the first offense, after school detention for the second offense and a parent conference for the third offense.

Murphy says a the code of conduct for the system will be revised over the summer and parents and students alike can expect the Butler County School System &uot;to mean business&uot; when it comes to enforcing the new uniform policy next year.

&uot;I am going to do so to the greatest extent I can – we have that mandate from the school board and we are obligated to enforce it.&uot;