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Community Thread: If Duval Requires School Uniforms, Will It Help Parents Pay?

Community Thread


WJCT’s "Community Thread" invites listeners to submit questions on topics that affects all of us. The project started with a TV show on public schools last month. Now, our WJCT News reporters are working to answer questions that didn’t make it on the show.



This one comes from listener Anbu Ponniah. He wants to know: If the school district requires students to wear uniforms next year, how will it help parents buy them?  

Ponniah has two children in Duval County public schools. He says he’s not a fan of mandatory uniforms. He worries if his schools decide for logos or school names on uniforms, parents will have to buy from uniform stores.

“The kids are in growth spurts. Every three-to-six months I have to change my kids’ clothes," Ponniah said. “I’ll buy them something new.”

Vitti says he expects the district to be able to assist families who can’t afford them because there's a lot of support in the private sector for uniforms.

“A simple form would be completed and submitted to the principal, and the principal would have dollars set aside within their budget to buy ample number of uniforms to provide to the parent if they had an economic disadvantage,” Vitti said. “So this would easily be done, multiple uniforms would be provided to the parent.”

Ponniah also doubts uniforms will solve disciplinary issues. But Vitti says he believes they will play a part. He also says uniforms set a higher expectation for kids and puts a focus on academics.

Vitti says the number of elementary and middle schools voluntarily adopting uniform policies has doubled to around 50 over the last three years.

“We’re seeing that it leads to fewer referrals, fewer suspensions and a slight increase in attendance,” he said.

More than a decade ago Duval tried a mandatory policy, but parents were allowed to opt their children out. Vitti says it would be different this time. Only extreme cases, like religious reasons, or some students with disabilities would qualify for opting out.

Parents can take an online survey about the proposed policy through the holidays. Vitti says then he’ll meet with PTA’s and community groups. The School Board could vote on the the uniform recommendation as soon as March.