Uniform idea may not fit all parents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / April 11, 2000

LULING – The question of uniforms in St. Charles Parish public schoolsappears not to be one on which people are neutral.

“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many phone calls in my life,” Regina Benoit, who serves with the Uniform Task Force, said.

The matter comes up for a vote at tonight’s 7:30 p.m. meeting of the St.Charles Parish School Board at its office in Luling near the Hale Boggs Bridge.

According to Benoit, the school system’s public information officer, response to a March 25 request for public comments has resulted in nearly 300 forms received.

At issue is a policy to be voted upon mandating uniforms for all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade. To be decided some timeafterward will be exact procedures for implementing that policy, if approved.

“It seems to be an issue most people feel passionately about, one way or the other,” Benoit added.

Copies of the proposed policy and enforcement procedures have been available at all schools, public libraries and on the school board’s website.

A short television program was also produced to explain the proposal and show off designs.

Approval was not uniform among school board members, as Mary Bergeron said she had a problem with proposed disciplinary procedures.

Bergeron said her problems stem from the survey recently conducted of parents, students and employees. She said only 56 percent of all parentswho responded to a recently-conducted survey agreed with suspension or harsher discipline for not complying with the policy.

“We should do it only if it’s what the majority of parents want,” Bergeron added, then moved to approve the policy revisions on first reading.

However, she asked for a new survey prior to approval.

Bergeron eventually withdrew her motion, but more time was granted to get more comments.

The new comment form asked three basic questions. The first waswhether the respondent agreed with the proposal as presented. The secondwas whether the respondent agreed with concerns or questions. The thirdwas whether the respondent did not agree and asked for specific concerns.

More than 220 response forms were in hand by Friday, with nearly 300 expected by today. Some of the responses came from students and othersfrom parents, teachers and administrators.

The school uniform policy was originally to be phased in, with primary and elementary school students starting this fall and middle and high school students following suit in the 2001-2002 school year. However, boardmember Ronald St. Pierre revised this to include all grades this fall.Basic uniform styles have already been selected, leaving color selection up to the schools.

Benoit added that she understands where the initial outlay may be tough on some parents. However, in time, that cost will drop, year to year, with”hand-me-downs” within families and garage sales of used uniforms. Inaddition, parents could donate used uniforms to the schools as a tax write-off.

A six-step disciplinary plan is also part of the revised dress code. Firstviolation is being sent home. Second violation includes an in-schooldetention. Third violation includes “renting” a uniform for the day.Fourth violation would result in an out-of-school suspension. Fifthviolation would result in a wilful disobedience violation. Sixth couldresult in expulsion.

Parents with financial hardships or religious-based opposition could apply for exemptions to the school uniform policy, and these will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

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