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Education

Duval School Board Backs Down From Required Uniforms

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Lindsey Kilbride
/
WJCT News

The Duval County School Board has rejected a proposal for mandatory middle- and elementary-school uniforms next year.

Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti proposed required uniforms in August. He said if the policy was adopted, students wouldn’t be allowed to opt out unless they have a disability preventing them from wearing a uniform.

 

A vocal bunch of parents and students have spoken out against required uniforms at board meetings. Most recently, mom Stacey Roth said kids need to be creative.

“When our young children choose an outfit that is self-expressive, appropriate for school and weather-appropriate, they are tapping into both their left and right side of the brain and exhibiting creativity and critical thinking,” Roth said.

Other people said they didn’t think parents were informed enough about the proposed policy.  

At Friday’s School Board workshop, Vitti presented uniform data and survey results to the Board.

Nine-thousand people responded to a uniform survey, with 52 percent opposed. Of the parents who responded, more than half voted in favor of uniforms. But three-quarters of students, making up 23 percent of respondents, were opposed. And 57 percent of teachers were in favor of uniforms.

At a recent principal meeting, 81 percent of 96 elementary-school principals anonymously answered in support of uniforms. Eighty-five percent of 27 middle school principals also voted in favor of uniforms.

Although the majority of principals, teachers and parents were for uniforms, Vitti pointed out the people opposed were strongly opposed.

Board member Becki Couch said she was concerned about economically challenged students’ being provided enough free uniforms. The district was seeking a $500,000 grant that could have covered some of those costs. Couch said she wouldn’t have been okay with students' receiving just one uniform when some don’t have access to a laundry facility every day.

Cheryl Grymes said she’s concerned about punishing students for parents’ failure to provide them. The punishment for multiple offenses would have been in-school suspension.

Scott Shine said, although he personally likes the idea of uniforms, he’s not sure if the timing is right when the district has so many other bigger goals to achieve.

Fifty Duval schools already require uniforms voluntarily. The board recommended to instead use its resources to further aid those schools.

“Primarily it’s for those families who are financially strapped, and so one way we can support is provide uniforms,” board member Paula Wright said. “Another way we can support is to see how often some of the students move from school to school [and need new uniforms]."

Wright said she didn’t like the one-size-fits-all model of mandatory uniforms.

Ultimately Vitti said he would only move forward with his recommendation if the entire board was on the same page.