During a recent meeting, the board of education voted 4-1 to strike the existing uniform policy for four schools–Belville Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Town Creek Elementary and Leland Middle–from the district’s handbook. Vice chairwoman Shirley Babson cast the dissenting vote.
After hearing from principals and conducting parent and staff surveys, the board decided in 2009 to institute the uniform dress code at those four schools. Now, six years later, that same feedback showed that uniforms are no longer wanted.
Results of a follow-up survey last month–which also polled parents and educators districtwide–found there was little support among parents for continuing the policy at the northern campuses, with 61 percent–216 respondents–answering that they do not support uniforms at Belville Elementary and 73 percent, or 95 parents, saying the same for Lincoln. Approximately 56 percent of Town Creek parents voted against the policy. Leland Middle had similar results with just over 58 percent.
Of those four schools, only one–Belville Elementary–did not have staff support for keeping uniforms in place.
“There are lots of opininos about this, but the overwhelming opinion is parents want a choice,” district spokeswoman Jessica Swencki told the board.
Helen Davis, now director of elementary education, is a former principal of Lincoln Elementary who played a major role in pushing the uniform policy through. Although she said would prefer that it remain in place, she acknowledged that enforcement had become a concern and a classroom distraction.
“Teachers feel like they spend a great deal of time addressing the situation,” Davis said. “I think the uniform policy served its day…but right now it’s okay if it goes back to traditional style clothing.”
Board member Bud Thorsen agreed.
“We started this in the northern part of the county as a pilot program to see how it worked…I was hoping it would be consistent throughout the county. And we’re not consistent throughout the county, so I don’t think we need to continue having it up in the northern part,” he said.
Chairwoman Catherine Cooke, once a strong proponent of uniforms, said now, she “doesn’t care.” That’s because, she argued, the real problem with dress code is at the secondary level.
“Truth be known, this was directed primarily to elementary students, but the high school students are the ones that need to adhere to this code because I can tell you as a high school parent, the dress code is overlooked at the high schools and the middle schools….The real issue is looking at the dress code and making sure the dress code is adhered to at all levels,” Cooke said.
The district’s current dress code will remain unchanged by the revocation of uniforms at the four schools. And students at Brunswick County Academy, an alternative middle and high school, will still have to follow that school’s separate policy requiring uniforms.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.