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School uniforms level playing field

Cary Ashby • Sep 25, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Students at Norwalk Catholic and St. Paul High schools must wear collared shirts or polos with khaki or black pants or skirts.

Kindergartners through eighth-graders are required to wear shirts that are red, white or black — the school colors.

NCS President Dennis Doughty said some advantages of school uniforms are that it takes away the struggle of what to wear each day and the pressure of wearing certain designer labels. Essentially, it levels the playing field.

Also, Doughty said conformity is no longer an issue and while there “might be struggle at first” for students who are new to a school that requires uniforms, he finds that most students don’t have a problem with it.

“When someone moves in, they have to get used to it,” he said.

Willard City Schools also has a dress code. 

Superintendent Jeff Ritz was asked about the advantages.

“Uniforms have helped give a more business-like attitude, and have helped with a feeling of being prepared for life. We use our ‘pop’ money to assist families in purchasing shirts and the county has stepped up and provided families who qualify a stipend of $200 to go toward school uniforms,” he said.

Sandusky City Schools also has uniforms, but Superintendent Eugene Sanders couldn’t be reached for comment.

NCS and St. Paul offer assistance in parents obtaining clothes for their children.

The school has part of a classroom designated as a “uniform store” and offers pants, skirts and shirts for yard-sale prices or free. The clothes are sorted by sized. 

“There are a lot of gently-used uniforms out there that are available to them,” said Doughty, who noted having a similar “store” is very common and offering clothes this way helps parents financially. 

“People bring in their old uniforms,” he added. “They pick what they need.”

Doughty said it’s common for parents to come to the “uniform store” and go shopping and the donations also happen regularly.

The school chiefs were asked about the disadvantages to having school uniforms.

“There aren’t a lot of drawbacks,” Doughty said. “I think the positives outweigh the negatives.”

Ritz said uniforms can detract from a child's individuality.

“Schools should be a place where diversity is celebrated, but our students express themselves by using accessories. Uniforms may lessen the child's comfort level while attending school. Enforcing rules about uniforms is difficult,” the superintendent said.

The dress code at NCS and St. Paul has been in place for many years.

“The parents initiated that. It started at St. Mary’s Elementary and then went to St. Paul Elementary,” said Doughty, who didn’t recall any resistance. “It’s more than 20 years that it’s been in place.”

In 2006, the St. Paul and St. Mary schools combined to form Norwalk Catholic School.

In Willard, there were multiple meetings with students and parents before the dress code started a couple of years ago.

“The main reasons ended up revolving around saving money, reducing disciplinary issues and dressing for success,” Ritz said.

“When we first started the movement, we met up with some resistance. I was very impressed with the love and concern for our children that our community displayed. We spent much time debating what the policy should look like and what is and is not acceptable,” the superintendent added.

Willard students have input when the district might tweak the dress code policy.

“As time goes on we continue to modify our policy. We do this by meeting quarterly with our (high school) students. The students make suggestions about allowing patterns, what pull-overs are acceptable and any other changes. All of our changes for this year were brought about by our students,” Ritz said. 

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