CORONADO REJECTS SCHOOL UNIFORMS - The Explorer: Import

CORONADO REJECTS SCHOOL UNIFORMS

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Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003 12:00 am | Updated: 7:47 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Coronado K-8 School, 3401 E. Wilds Road, will not be adopting uniforms next year, following a vote of parents, teachers and students last month. The issue is still unresolved at Woodrow Wilson K-8 School, 2300 W. Glover Road, the other school investigating uniform adoption in the Amphitheater Public Schools district.

Coronado Vice Principal Dave Berry presented the results of the vote at the Jan. 13 meeting of the school's site-based council. Nearly 70 percent of Coronado parents responded to the survey, with 56 percent voting in favor and 44 percent voting against requiring uniforms at school.

The Amphi Gov-erning Board requires that 70 percent of a school's parents be in favor of uniforms before that school can approach the board with a uniform adoption request.

In November, ballots were sent to all Coronado parents of kindergarten through seventh-graders, as well as to fifth-grade parents at Painted Sky Elemen-tary School, 12620 N. Woodburne Ave. Pain-ed Sky is Coronado's feeder school.

The ballots were due back in mid-December and those parents who did not respond were contacted by telephone.

"I was told to call, and if I didn't reach anyone, to leave a message," said Maureen Peters, a site council member and the parent who first brought the idea of uniforms to Coronado three years ago. "If there was no answering machine, I tried one more time and then gave up. I called about 400 parents."

The district requires schools considering uniforms attempt to contact 100 percent of the parents at a school. With the ballots and phone calls, Coronado was still only able to get responses from 68.75 percent of the parents, Berry said.

The school also polled students in grades four through seven, including fifth-graders at Painted Sky, and all Coronado teachers. Seventy-three percent of the fourth-graders, 79 percent of fifth-graders (including those at Painted Sky), 78 percent of sixth-graders and 82 percent of seventh-graders voted against uniform adoption. A total of 639 students voted.

Perhaps not surprisingly, said Peters, the 104-teacher vote was almost exactly opposite student results with 74 percent favoring uniforms and 26 percent opposing.

"I didn't want uniforms because I like the clothes I wear," said Daniel Steely, 13. "Uniforms kind of put you down with all the other kids. Some kids are at different social levels than you. You want to wear what you want and it's just like you kind of want other kids to look up to you."

Steely, a sixth-grader, who was wearing nylon zip-on wind pants, a sport sweatshirt and tennis shoes when interviewed, said he thought teachers wanted uniforms "because they like us all to be the same so no one is made fun of."

Kim Steely, Daniel's mother, was in favor of uniforms because she works as a substitute aide at Coronado "and it is distressing to see what some kids wear here."

"Everything is a little too short or a little too low," Steely said. "I'm always having to tell kids, 'Pull it down, pull it up, change that shirt, tuck it in.' I told my kids they could all look stupid together -- uniforms would help them concentrate. I have a son here and he needs to be doing his work, not looking at what's walking by. My kids said they needed to express themselves, but I say they can express themselves outside of school."

Brittney Morales, 10, said that none of her friends voted in favor of uniforms "because they are weird-looking and we don't like to have to wear the same style and colors every day."

Andy McConnell, 12, said he wasn't surprised when the uniform proposal failed.

"My parents actually voted against it and most of the kids I know voted against it, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't pass," he said. "I think learning is supposed to be fun and if you wear a uniform it is uncomfortable and if you're uncomfortable, you're not having fun."

McConnell said the argument that uniforms eliminate social status and level the playing field among students didn't make sense to him because "you are still the same person inside, no matter what you wear."

Scott Backus, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, said enforcement of dress code is especially difficult for male teachers because "you tell a girl her shirt is (cut) too low and she says, 'Why are you looking there?' It is very uncomfortable."

Nevertheless, Backus was one of the 26 percent of Coronado's teachers who voted against adopting uniforms.

"I looked at all the research and the only thing I was looking for was (evidence) that (uniforms) improve academic performance all the way around," Backus said. "The research said, 'No,' and that was why I was opposed."

While dress code violations are a "constant" problem among "a small percentage of students," he said, uniforms are not necessarily the answer.

"I think a better idea would be instituting a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy. If you violate dress code three times in a semester, then you wear a uniform," Backus said. "The district, I think, would look at that as singling out a child, but I think it would be a good consequence. Basically, the school would be saying, 'If you can't dress yourself, we'll dress you.'"

Peters said fear of anticipated uniform cost, reluctance to have Coronado "look like a private school" and taking away individuality from students were the primary reasons parents gave in voting against uniforms

Since uniforms are no longer an option, the site council asked Coronado Principal Cathy Eiting to add a discussion of school dress code enforcement to the council's February meeting.

Wilson K-8 will begin surveying parents this month about possible uniform adoption at Wilson next year, said Dana ReDavid, administrative assistant to Principal Adrian Hannah.

The ballot will be sent to parents on Jan. 29, ReDavid said. The deadline for returning the ballots was to be set at the Jan. 29 site council meeting.

This is the second time Wilson has broached the subject of uniform adoption, the first being in 2000, when a parent survey showed parents were in favor of a stricter dress code, but not necessarily uniforms.

Wilson's ballot will include a description of the uniform being considered, although that description had not been fully determined when the Northwest EXPLORER went to press. "It is along the lines of what they have at La Cima," ReDavid said

La Cima Middle School, 5600 N. La Canada Drive, requires students wear either khaki or navy-blue shorts or pants and navy-blue or white, collared, polo-type shirts. Students can wear black, brown or white shoes with matching shoelaces.

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