School uniforms a hot topic

Published 9:00 pm Sunday, July 13, 2008

It’s uncertain if Selma High School students will wear uniforms in the fall.

The issue came up recently at a Selma City School Board meeting when Deborah LeSure, representing Concerned Parents for Better Education, told school board members the new rule enacted this month placed a hardship on parents.

“Public schools have no authority to require them to wear uniforms,” LeSure said.

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The response came from a plan by Selma High’s new principal Wanda McCall, to have a loosely enforced dress code. Clothing choices for students centered on school colors: blue, gold, white and purple shirts; khaki and navy blue pants and denim jeans and skirts.

McCall met recently with a group of parents at a public meeting to discuss the uniforms and other issues.

At the time, she said her plan to narrow those choices has nothing to do with punishing students.

McCall said she saw the change as an extra security measure. Students in varying school colors won’t become confused with others who might come onto campus.

Selma High has a population of nearly 1,000 students.

LeSure raised the issue of cost of uniforms. “You have to consider the price of food. You have to consider the price of gas. A lot of the parents don’t have the money to buy the uniforms.”

Schools are places for children to get an education, not worry about dress, she emphasized.

School board President Barbara Hiouas said board members do not have the authority to set the dress code at Selma High.

“The trend in Alabama and other states is that the schools set the dress code,” she said, adding that a decision by the board on the dress code would be illegal.

Katy Smith Campbell, a Tuskegee attorney who represents the school board, agreed with Hiouas, saying dress codes are practically a local school decision, but the board could decide, for example, to have a dress code at schools or to go to uniforms in general.

“The color and type pants is a local decision with the principals,” she said.