Brown Deer School Board holds off on school uniform decision

Officials want more time to gather community feedback

June 26, 2013

Brown Deer — Citing the lack of comprehensive input from district parents and students, the Brown Deer School Board on Tuesday postponed their consideration of creating a district-wide school uniform policy until their July 23 meeting. The uniform idea was presented to district officials for the first time last week at a Teaching and Learning Committee meeting.

When it became clear the board wasn't going to act on the uniforms, Superintendent Deb Kerr implored board members to avoid the uniform section of the policy and approve another section which references "a culture of excellence."

"It doesn't say uniforms, but it talks about what we're trying to instill," Kerr said. "This pride of personal appearance."

The board decided to hold off on that section of the policy as well.

Uniform standards

The uniform section, which drew several residents on both sides of the issue, outlined requirements for collared shirts, slacks, dresses and skirts. Shirts and dresses would need to be black, gray, gold/yellow, or white. Slacks would have to be black, gray, khaki, or corduroy. Skirts, dresses, and shorts couldn't be any shorter than the length of a girl's fingertips with her arms hanging down at her sides. The policy would forbid camouflage, leather, jogging pants, wind pants and overalls, and would require that yoga pants, stretch pants and leggings "fit appropriately."

While Kerr argued for uniforms, saying the standard would create a "culture of learning and higher expectations," the majority of parents in the audience were against the idea. Uniform critics said the district's current dress code isn't enforced consistently, and that uniforms could impact students' self expression.

"The reality of the world is that we are different," resident Theresa Murphy said. "Let's celebrate it and not stifle by having them look like robots without the ability to express themselves in a society which promotes individuality."

Dress code unenforced

Parents in the audience, as well as Brown Deer High School senior Greg Okray, said uniforms are overkill because teachers aren't enforcing the current dress code.

"I just don't think the uniforms would be right," Okray said. "I can think of, right now, six teachers that consistently enforce it, but there are so many teachers in the high school that need to enforce it."

On the other hand, district parent Marie Hoppe said uniforms would make her life a lot easier.

"I'm tired of explaining to my kid after school why it's okay for that girl to wear spaghetti straps and have her breasts showing," Hoppe said, "and that boy to have his underwear showing."

Teachers need to step up

Members of the School Board agreed with that the current dress code needs to be better publicized and "have teeth" to penalize nonenforcing teachers and noncompliant students both.

"I'd like to see the teachers held more accountable for enforcing these policies," said board member Leslie Galloway Sherard. "We don't know if (our dress code) is broken yet, because we haven't enforced it consistently."

High School Principal Jim Piatt commented that dress code violations often result in suspensions because students become insubordinate with teachers who enforce the code. Increased enforcement, he said, will likely increase suspension numbers come November.

"We can enforce any dress code," Piatt told the board.

Kerr said that the district will do its best to gather community feedback before the July meeting, with the goal of finding compromise.

"Maybe by working together we can reach some kind of consensus of why we're wearing what we're going to wear," Kerr said, "because it impacts student achievement."

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