School uniforms, a stricter dress code, better enforcement, maybe just a clearer dress code or policy, the East Hampton Board of Education took the matter up Monday night to discuss the recommendations of the policy committee.
The issue of school uniforms for the middle school was first raised by board member Don Coolican on . The board took no action other than to agree to gather more information and further discuss the issue, and dress codes in general. For starters, the policy committee met Thursday and made some recommendations.
“The initial meeting was to get a sense of where we were in terms of enforcing our current policy, where our current policy was and to get some feedback from the community,” board chairman Mike Vasquenza said.
The recommendations of the policy committee included adding language to the policy which will reference appropriate clothing as described in the handbook, conducting a survey as a way to get feedback from the community, synchronizing the middle school and high school dress codes, and ensure that dress codes at all schools include appropriate length for shorts. Also included in the recommendations was a statement saying that all staff and parents need to be much more vigilant about enforcing the handbook rules regarding dress.
Rather than conducting its own survey, the decision was to add questions to the Safe School Climate survey, which the State Department of Education requires be administered.
“[School Superintendent] Dr. [Judith] Golden felt the best avenue to take that survey would be to have a question or two on the Safe School survey that the state is providing us, that we have to do anyway,” board member Mark Laraia explained. “So, we would add a question or two on that survey to talk about dress code, uniforms, however the board wants to approach that.”
Parents, staff and students will have the opportunity to complete the Safe School Climate survey.
“I think we get a better sampling of where everybody stands with this than just maybe something we send home and don’t get a lot of feedback,” Vasquenza said. “This is something we will get feedback from, not only parents, but staff and students, which I think will help in the decision-making process.”
Perhaps sensing a lack of support for uniforms, Coolican’s initial response was, “ABU. Anything but uniforms.”
“I disagree,” Vasquenza said. “I think what we promised was a review of our dress code and the potential for school uniforms.”
“The dress code is not being enforced,” Coolican said. “If you’ve ever been behind a school bus with high school or middle school kids getting off, you know it is not being enforced.”
Convinced of the benefits to uniforms, Coolican made similar arguments as last month as well as new ones, but whether this issue has life to it will probably come down to the feedback the board gets from the survey, which is where Coolican turned his attention to.
“I would hope that you would demonstrate to whoever is answering the survey, what these uniforms would cost,” he said. “I think parents should be aware of the fact that uniforms are very often less expensive than what they buy now.
“When that survey goes out, I’d be interested to see how it’s worded.”
Coolican also indicated he was a little disappointed with how this issue was proceeding, suggesting the board’s actions, or inaction, were akin to a prevent defense. He was looking to get an ad hoc committee appointed before the board finished its time in November and said there is a lot that has to be done if there was going to be a switch to uniforms.
“I think what this board agreed to do, we did,” Vasquenza said, “which was to put an emphasis on what our current dress code is in a way that we can do a better job of aligning that to middle and high and bringing an awareness to our administrative staff to do that. We also said let’s get feedback from our community about how they think about [uniforms] because, in my view, as I said [Sept. 26], I’m not in favor of it, but I’m certainly open to hear what others have to say about it. That’s what the policy committee has recommended. This information I think will be helpful to the next board. When the survey goes out, I’m sure they’ll be involved in the composition of that survey.”