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Are Uniforms a Good Fit for East Hampton Middle School?

School board to continue discussing the issue.

“I don’t have anything to wear” might be something you’ve heard if you have a teen or pre-teen in school.

Figuring out what to wear might not be an issue for middle school students if a proposal before the East Hampton Board of Education gets any traction.

While more schools introduce “uniforms” to their districts and some others consider it, East Hampton has decided to at least discuss the matter and explore the feasibility of such a requirement.

Board member Donald Coolican requested the issue be put on the agenda, where it was raised on Monday night.

Coolican ditched his usual suit for khakis and a golf shirt, demonstrating what he had in mind as a school uniform.

“Look at me,” Coolican said. “Now, I don’t think members of the board of education should come to their meeting dressed like this, but I think kids going to the middle school should. They should wear a pair of khakis and a golf shirt, or shorts and a golf shirt.”

Norwich, which had a uniform policy at the elementary schools, implemented a similar policy at its middle school in 2010. Bridgeport high schools went to uniforms this year and Torrington and West Haven are considering adding a uniform policy. Their reasons were similar: discouraging competition, reducing bullying and teasing, and improving discipline.

Coolican’s rationale wasn’t much different, saying there were three reasons to go this route: there is no decision-making about what is appropriate, eliminates clothes bullying and it saves parents money.

“For those three reasons, I personally think we should move forward with the uniforms at the middle school,” he said.  “If there is a consensus here, I think we should move forward with doing that so we can plan at the middle school level - with the administration, staff, parents - to make sure everybody has a say in this so we’re all on the same page. But that will take some time.”

Since there was no motions made, it was difficult to tell where the majority of the board stood on the issue. All that was decided was that it would be discussed further and information gathered.

“Me personally, I don’t think it’s the greatest idea,” Chairman Mike Vasquenza said, “but I would be open-minded to hearing what our community, our parents have to say.”

Sheila Wall, who picks up her grandchildren at school and called the outfits she sees “costumes,” agreed with Coolican that there is a need, but added, “We have a very good dress code and it’s not being followed.”

Mark Laraia, who was adamantly opposed to the idea of uniforms, said that the dress code was not being followed was the real issue.

“Maybe we need to ask the administration to follow it more stringently,” he said. “Let’s enforce the dress code. Let’s do that. Maybe that’s the way we have to go. I’m not in favor of a school uniform. We want government not to intervene in what we do as private citizens but now we're telling people what they’re going to be doing.”

Coolican didn’t disagree the dress code needed to be enforced, he just had a different way to go about it.

“We need to enforce the dress code,” he said. “There’s two ways to do that, and one of the ways is to make the dress code so much more simple. Simplify it. It’s much easier to follow if it is simple.”

By simplifying it, Coolican of course meant khakis and a golf shirt.

Though the board agreed to continue the discussion of uniforms and dress codes, Coolican, who would like to see a uniform policy in place by the next school year, seemed to have his doubts the issue would get anywhere.

“I’m going to be upset if this gets stonewalled,” he said. “If we’re going to do it we need to get going."

Stacy September 27, 2011 at 10:01 AM
I have 2 girls in the middle school, and never once have they come home complaining about being "bullied" about what they wear. I do not shop at high end stores. If the dress code isn't being followed, then it's up to the school to take action. Call the parents or start handing out detentions. These kids are old enough to know what is acceptable to wear to school.
Stacy September 27, 2011 at 01:39 PM
I am completely against a uniform. It is not the school's or the town's job to dictate what my child wears to school. It's my job. Yes, guidelines are appropriate (and should be enforced) but to tell me exactly what my child must wear is not acceptable. Plus, I would be forced to go out and buy my child an entire new school wardrobe. Is the Board of Education going to pay that bill for me? How about we continue to teach our children compassion, tolerance, and not to bully in general? If we take away every opportunity our children have to be better people, how are they going to learn to be kind adults?
T.I. September 27, 2011 at 03:06 PM
No! Individuality is critical in the development of a young person and as a parent I want to help cultivate that in a positive way for my children. I agree with what others have said...the school should enforce a dress code and parents ought to teach and train children what it means to love and accept people for who they are and not what they wear. Since when does conformity truly produce character change? In my opinion, never.
Gail September 27, 2011 at 03:13 PM
I no longer have children in the EH schools but I know in the past if what a child wore to school was inappropriate the parent was called to either bring new clothes to school or p/u student to bring home to change. Those rules should still apply. But also as a parent whos child went to a high school where uniforms were worn, it really wasn't a bad thing. You were able to purchase the shirts through the school as either a polo shirt or tshirt with school logo on it and they weren't that expensive. Plus it did look nicer to have the children dressed more appropriate and I think if they were going to do it for the middle school then it should also follow through to the high school.

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