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School uniform policy getting mixed reviews

Middle, high school students finishing first semester in uniforms

POSTED: December 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
As Liberty County’s two public high schools wrap up their first full semester since a uniform policy was instituted, the new clothing guidelines are receiving mixed reviews.
Within the schools, administrators say the policy has been successful. Bradwell Institute Principal Vicki Albritton said she has seen improvement in the students' behavior.
"We have been very pleased with the implementation of uniforms in the high school," she said. "We have seen a decrease in overall discipline referrals and excellent behavior at school-wide events."
Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker agreed the uniforms have made for positive change.
"It helps take the focus off what we're wearing and back on where it's supposed to be," she said. "If their behavior changes, we'll see changes in test scores."
Like Albritton, Baker said she's received positive response from the education community.
"It's going well, but like with anything new, it takes some adjusting," Baker said. "The parents are really excited. I get comments all the time."
While education authorities have said safety was the biggest factor in instituting the new policy. Baker said even though some of the rules may seem strict, the guidelines are in the children's best interest.
"Our biggest issue continues to be young men who want to sag their pants, and jackets that are not correct or jackets that have hoods. When many parents indicated they had difficulty finding royal blue, we asked that navy blue for jackets and sweaters be an added color, and the board agreed," Baker said of some parents' complaints. "When we must call upon a young person from behind, or review videotape, hoods obscure one's identity and impact overall safety so this not an area we are willing to overlook. Parents and most students have been extremely cooperative, making the implementation smoother."
While school officials still are re-evaluating and tweaking the uniform policy on a regular basis, Albritton and Baker agree it has been an overall success.
"Our administrative team really likes the uniform policy," Albritton said.
The semester proved to be an adjustment period for everyone involved - students, parents and school officials alike. Some parents have expressed frustration with certain facets of the policy and claim further alterations are necessary.
Karla Barr, mother of a Liberty County High School ninth-grader, said she doesn't have a problem with a uniform policy in general but said school administrators often administer excessively harsh punishments for relatively small violations. Barr said her daughter was sent to detention for having what she said was an inch-long label on her pants that was covered by a sweater.
Barr said she's not one to complain, but does not agree with "the kind of discipline that's being rendered for this type of infraction. The punishment should fit the crime. I completely approve of discipline where discipline is relevant."
Barr said not only was the punishment unfair, it cost her both time and money to come get her daughter from school so she could change her clothes. Barr also said school officials punished the wrong person.
"If they're going to punish anyone, punish me for buying it [the uniforms] for her," Barr said.
Barr said she's not the only parent who has experienced similar frustrations
"I know that I'm not alone," she said.
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