Wednesday, May 11, 2016

OMG, I volunteered for the school uniform policy review committee

When I started this site a few years ago, I said that I would focus on shopping and reviews of school uniform clothing. I intended to shy away from the endless debates around uniform policies and their enforcement. I still do, but ... when I found a survey regarding school uniforms in my daughter's backpack, I couldn't help but raise my hand and volunteer on the committee being formed to review polices at her school.

I mean, how could I not? I am familiar with the national retailers in the US market knowing their standard inventory items off the top of my head. I bet I spend more time browsing websites that sell school uniforms than folks that have full time jobs in the industry.

I also follow school uniform news articles from around the world. Some report on procurement issues and manufacturing woes. Others report on the drama that always ensues when a school board debates adopting an initial uniform policy. But the most entertaining news articles are on the topic of school uniform policy enforcement.

There are three themes around school uniform policy compliance and enforcement. 1) Each year, the media interview parents to document their concerns about the cost of school uniforms that comply with policy. 2) The students protest. Girls complain (rightfully so, IMHO) about being labeled "a distraction" to boys. And the boys will inevitably organize a stunt to wear kilts or skirts when they aren't allowed to wear shorts in warm weather. And 3) school administrators will occasionally hold a mass enforcement event disciplining large groups of otherwise good kids for uniform infractions that weren't enforced or weren't consistently enforced previously. This causes some parent to complain to the media and the cycle repeats.

But I digress.

So, back to my recent experience on the school uniform policy review committee. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, I found I shared the same opinions with most of the other parents in the group. All of us that volunteered for the committee strongly favored school uniforms, over not having a school uniform policy. Ours is really a student standard attire policy that allows us to shop at any retailer for standard basics like navy bottoms and white tops. The uniforms just make getting the kids out the door in the mornings SO much easier.

The policy changes that were under consideration were fairly minor tweaks. We discussed if the kids should be required to wear dress shoes on non PE days, or if we would recommend that the kids be allowed to wear sneakers every day. We discussed if all kids should be required to wear belts on pants with belt loops, or if the younger kids should be exempt. We discussed if solid navy polos and solid navy polo dresses should be allowed, verses only white polos and no polo dresses. We also discussed how hard it is to find basic solid colored shoes to comply with the policy of "mostly white, navy or black" shoes.

We then reviewed the feedback from other parents and the teachers from the survey. We found that it was fairly consistent with our thoughts. We only got one comment criticizing uniform policies as restricting of a kid's creativity. We brainstormed enforcement methods and ways the PTA can assist families and ensure all kids have access to uniform attire regardless of financial means.

We will meet one more time to finalize our recommendations to the school board. So far, it has been an interesting experience. I'll keep you posted on any further developments.

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