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Volusia County School Board Set To Review Proposal For Student Uniforms

Deltona High School students meet with Board Member Melody Johnson to discuss the district's school uniform proposal.

Volusia County school district staff will layout a school uniform policy Tuesday night for board members to consider. The district wants to follow some other central Florida schools that already have mandatory uniforms.

The way the uniform proposal stands right now, all students in grades K- 12 would be required to wear a white knit polo-style shirt and navy blue, black or khaki pants, shorts or skirts. Parents are already commenting on Facebook that white is not such a great idea for messy elementary school kids. They may be happy to hear principals would be able to add two more school colors for the shirt.

Students in a career academy or ROTC could also wear uniforms related to their programs. The school board says uniforms would promote safety, a learning environment and create a sense of pride and community. If approved, the new uniform policy would kick in next school year.

Volusia County School Board Member Melody Johnson said she sees students wearing inappropriate clothes on campus. She wants students to “dress for the job” and that’s what she tried to get across during a recent meeting with Deltona High School leaders. They met in a conference room near the principal's office.

“What do you think about, like I told other schools, when I see parts of your body that I don’t want to see? How do we deal with that?” said Johnson.

The students at the table were split. Junior Amanda Coleman said uniforms will keep her from expressing herself. She’s also worried this is only the beginning and officials will start restricting more and more items as time goes on, “and restricting the hair dying and the jewelry and all that, that’s going way too far, at least for a public school. We are not a private school, we are not a military school, we are public school, so why are you taking such degrees for us?” said Coleman.

Some students said that they’ve made friends with people based on what they were wearing, like say a t-shirt of a favorite band and that it will be harder to spot people who have similar interests. But sophomore Seth Bowman thinks uniforms would help cultivate more diverse friendships.

“I think we make judgements on what conversations would be easier based on things we notice that we have in common with certain people and if we’re all wearing the same thing, I think it really challenges us to make the first step to talk to someone we normally wouldn’t talk to," said Bowman.

The school board contends uniforms encourage students to express themselves through their personalities rather than through their clothes.

In discussions among parents, cost is a sticking point. Some think there would be less pressure to buy brand names and that would save them money. Others say they will have to spend more to have two sets of clothes for their kids: school attire and non-school attire. We should note the proposal says small logos would be acceptable.

Staff in Volusia County looked at other nearby districts that already have mandatory uniforms, including the Osceola County school district. It implemented uniforms in 2000. St. Cloud High School Principal Nate Fancher said his students have to wear collared shirts and jeans or khaki pants-- at the waist.

“I think it really does promote better behavior. It sets a more serious school atmosphere which emphasizes why the students are here. Ultimately, at the high school level our goal is to make sure that they graduate,” said Fancher.

Fancher said for families that can’t afford uniforms, the district provides them for free through donations programs and such. On Fridays for “spirit day” students can wear t-shirts that are school or college related. Volusia County’s proposal also allows for spirit days.

The proposal gives schools direction on how they would enforce the uniforms. First offense: a verbal warning and parent notification. Second offense: student gets a referral. Third time: in-school suspension.

Again, nothing is set in stone. The board could make changes at Tuesday's board meeting. There will be a public hearing on Volusia County school uniforms in January or February.