Dallas County School Board split on uniform policy

Published 6:14 pm Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Dallas County School Board of Education is split on whether or not the system will enforce a countywide uniform policy for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Don Willingham made a proposal at a board meeting Monday that encouraged board members to keep the policy that is already in place.

The current policy was adopted in September 1999 and states that each school may adopt appropriate dress codes and present them to the superintendent for review and approval. Principals currently determine what students in their school will wear, but also get feedback from parents and Parent Teacher Associations.

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Willingham said in August a parent approached him about concerns with the current policy and opened the topic back up for debate. The board has discussed the uniform policy for the last eight months and remains divided.

Board members Leroy Miles and Mark Story said the policy should remain the way it is.

“I personally don’t care about uniforms but if we have a teacher or principal coming to us saying that the children need to be in uniform, it’s hard for us not to support,” Miles said. “I think we should stay out of it as a board and let each principal decide which way they want to go and we support them.”

Story said he sides with Willingham and Miles on the uniforms.

“I feel we should continue letting the principals make the decision on uniforms in their schools and decide what is best for them,” Story said.

Board member Roy Edwards opposes the idea due to the financial burden it would place on families.

“I am opposed. Where would parents purchase them? We’ve got 3,000 students times two sets of clothing, different sizes, different colors for different schools. It creates hardship for parents to have to worry about trying to locate these types of uniforms,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he feels it is not necessary to enforce uniforms and doing so takes away from a child’s individuality and self-esteem.

Board member William Minor wants to enforce uniforms countywide. He said having students all in one uniform would make it easy to distinguish someone who didn’t belong on school grounds.

“It’s a safety element for our schools because at least our schools would know our students from intruders,” Minor said. “Willingham has met with the northern and if they are comfortable with the uniform policy, I think we should look at countywide uniforms and try it. I’m very much in favor of uniforms.”

There are 11 schools in the Dallas County School system, which is split up into three zones: northern, western and southern.

The southern zone is made up of Southside High School, Tipton-Durant Middle School, Bruce K. Craig Elementary School and Southside Primary Elementary School. Southside Primary is the only school in the zone that is not in uniform.

Keith Middle/High School and Salem Elementary School, in the western zone, are both in uniform.

The entire northern zone of the school system is not in uniform and will be impacted the most if the board were to decide to enforce a countywide policy.

The schools in the northern zone are Dallas County High School, Martin Middle School, Valley Grande Elementary School, J.E. Terry Grammar School and Brantley Elementary School.

Board president Carolyn Bates said she wants the board to reach a decision on whether they will adopt the countywide dress code policy or not.

“I strictly oppose making one zone of kids wear uniforms and the others do not. I support a district-wide uniform policy or no policy,” Bates said.

If the board does not make a decision before the new school year starts in August, the current policy will stay in place.

Two principals of schools who are not in uniforms right now, Brenda Mitchell of Southside Primary Elementary School and Jackie Averhart of Tipton-Durant Middle School said they have to consult with parents before they can say what they will decide.

Bruce K. Craig Principal Michael Walker said he plans for students to remain in uniform in the upcoming school year if the policy stays the same.

“We haven’t had one incident with parents or students when it comes to uniforms,” Walker said. “Everyone seems to be complying and going along with what we already have in place.”

Walker said if the board reaches a decision by August, he would have no problem complying with whatever they decide.

The complete dress code policy for the Dallas County School System can be found online at www.dallask12.org.