By Andrea Washington
Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writer
Polo shirts and khaki pants or skirts will be the highlights of elementary and middle school fashion next school year based on the Liberty County Board of Education’s decision to approve a new uniform dress code policy.
The board approved the measure to require uniforms for elementary and middle school students by a 4-3 vote during its regular meeting Tuesday night.
The vote was the board’s third time dealing with the issue in the last month, following debates over wording, a number of unsupported motions and a tie vote during meetings in March.
With the issue now in the background, BoE Chairman Lily Baker said she was happy with the board’s decision.
“I’m very pleased we finally approved it,” Baker said. “I’ve received numerous phone calls from parents and teachers who wanted the uniform dress (code) policy in place.”
With a majority of school principals opposed to provisions within the policy, however, board member Becky Carter said the decision was rushed.
“What I wanted to do instead of pushing it through, was postpone the decision, take some time to answer some of the logistical questions that a lot of administrators had and build a consensus,” Carter said. “Whether it took six months or nine months, I just feel like we all needed to be on the same page.”
Rushed decision or not, Snelson-Golden Middle School Principal Dr. Chris Garretson said the new policy will be helpful with school safety because students will no longer be able to wear baggy clothes.
“It’s amazing what can be tucked into oversized clothing,” Garretson, who has supported uniforms for two years, said in an email. “There’s a video which is making another round through email showing a male student who pulls out a rifle/shotgun, about three handguns, a large knife, and several other weapons from a pair of pants that are about two sizes too big.”
Parent Marlene Whittingham said it is safety of another kind that put her in favor of uniforms.
“It’s better for the teacher to identfy students when they go on field trips,” the mother of two Taylors Creek Elementary School students said. “That’s my main concern.”
She added the new policy would help with back-to-school shopping.
“I won’t spend the summer buying every kind of clothes and can probably recycle their uniforms for the next year,” Whittingham said.
Although there has been some concern from parents about where they will be able to purchase uniforms, Baker said plans are “already in motion” to work with local stores to ensure the availability of uniform apparel.
“I was at the board office (Wednesday) morning and the central office is already working to get the information to places like Wal-Mart and other stores about colors,” the chairman said.
Wal-Mart Home Lines Assistant Manager Lyn Seifert, said parents can expect to pay sensible prices at the retail giant.
“I would say polos run in the $5 to $7 range, depending on the size. Our husky sizes are little bit more expensive,” she said. “And I want to say that you can get khaki pants for $9 to $15. It’s very reasonable.”
As the reality of the policy sets in, Garretson believes it will ultimately be positive for the community, despite those who will continue to disagree with the measure.
“I know this policy is not going to please everybody; however, I cannot think of a thing in life with which 100 percent of everyone agrees,” he said.
What about the high schools?
Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School were left out of the uniform dress code policy, a decision that has angered parents who supported a system-wide ruling.
“There were so many parents in support of uniforms. They thought all of the kids were going to uniforms,” parent Lola Elders said. “We just thought we had the support from the teachers, the administrative staff and Mrs. Baker.”
Elders, whose daughter will be a BI freshman next year, said she and other parents are working to have the policy enforced for all schools.
“I talked to several parents and we’re not going to stop pushing the issue,” she said. “Even if we have to get a petition started. We’re not happy with the decision that they made.”
When asked if the high schools will eventually be phased into the policy, Baker said she was “pretty sure high schools will come on board,” but did not know when this would take place.
The following clothing styles and colors will be considered appropriate starting next school year:
• Solid navy or khaki pants, knee length shorts and knee length skirts will be allowed.
• Solid white or navy polo or collared shirts and blouses will be allowed. One additional color may be chosen by each school.
How did the BOE vote?
Becky Carter ................No
Mattie Hicks ...............Yes
Marcia Anderson ..........No
Lily Baker ....................Yes
Carol Guyett .................No
Harold Woods ..............Yes
Charlie Frasier ............Yes