02/25/07 — Duplin residents will have say on school uniforms

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Duplin residents will have say on school uniforms

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 25, 2007 2:08 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County students may or may not be wearing uniforms when the 2007-08 school year starts in August. Right now, though, the matter is still up for debate and within the coming months, county residents will have the opportunity to give their input as the county Board of Education directed staff Tuesday night to set up a series of public forums.

Those forums will be held across the county, beginning sometime in March.

"I think we need to go forward with the next step to either put this in place or not and that next step is holding these public forums," board member Willie Gillespie said.

During the committee's presentation, Pam Edwards, county director of student support services, said that while they weren't explicitly recommending that the school board adopt a uniform policy, they did find a good deal of support for it across the district.

And, she said, her committee, made up of teachers, parents and central office administrators, did vote overwhelmingly in favor of school uniforms -- 12 to one, with one undecided and two absent.

The committee also surveyed teachers at each of the district's 15 schools -- 16 including the Renaissance Center -- and eight schools came back in favor of school uniforms. The other eight haven't returned their surveys yet.

Edwards explained that while there is little hard statistical evidence showing that uniforms make a difference, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence.

"When you look at the research on school uniforms there is not a lot of concrete evidence that says, yes, school uniforms make a change," she said. "But a lot of people feel it makes a change."

Among those changes, school districts with uniforms often report drops in discipline referrals, improved school image, positive effects in the classroom, increases in attendance and cost savings.

Edwards also explained that having uniforms would help keep gang colors and possibly gang influence out of schools.

Of the teachers in favor of school uniforms, most were from high schools and middle schools. Those in elementary schools were more split on their opinions, which Edwards said, made sense based on the information they received from each of the schools regarding the number of problems they have enforcing the current dress code.

"Our elementary schools are not having a problem with it. It's starting with the middle school students," she said.

That sentiment was echoed by several people.

"There doesn't seem to be a need for uniforms at North Duplin Elementary School because they're enforcing the dress code," committee member and parent Paula Rivenbark said.

Cost was another issue that raised concerns.

Edwards said that based on their research, the recommended uniform style -- khaki, black or navy pants, capris, skirts or shorts and solid-color polo short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts -- can be purchased at Target or Wal-Mart at reasonable prices. None of the clothing would be allowed to have logos or labels.

"Basically, for $20 to $25 you can outfit a child in a school uniform," she said.

But several parents protested that even that amount can add up for families with several children .

Edwards emphasized that a decision does need to be made before summer vacation in order to allow parents and students plenty of advance notice should uniforms be required.