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Weightier issues than school uniforms loom

The Hernando School Board has more pressing matters than starched khakis and polo shirts. Less than three weeks ago, the board derailed a plan to expand its dress code for the school year that begins today, but said it will revisit the issue in January. The indecisive machinations over the summer left parents scrambling for back-to-school shopping choices, retailers accepting returned items and both customers and merchants wondering if they are in for a repeat at the start of the second semester.

Here's a better idea for the board: Focus on more substantive issues confronting Florida public schools. Members should put their energy toward developing and debating public policies to encourage parental involvement, improve ties to the business community or boost student achievement and high school graduation rates.

Most importantly, they can start thinking about how to balance the budget later this year if state sales tax collections fail to rebound and state aid reductions follow suit.

There have been some successes surrounding school uniforms, notably in Long Beach, Calif., in the mid 1990s. There, crime and suspensions dropped after the district required uniforms in 70 of its elementary and middle schools. But the effort in Long Beach was aimed at curbing gang-related violence. No such logic was offered in Hernando.

In fact, School Board attorney J. Paul Carland advised the district to find research to make its policy more authoritative. Presumably, that means something stronger than Polk County did it, too.

The rationalization in Hernando has been consistency and convenience. A stringent dress code supposedly will free up assistant principals' time from serving as fashion police. Oddly, the proposed policy, extending the elementary uniform of khakis and polo shirts, affected only middle schools and Springstead High School. Exactly how is this consistent if three other high schools are excluded? Besides, individual schools had different color scheme requirements. Pupils transferring schools mid-year would be required to buy new uniforms in some instances. Again, is that the way the district wants to define consistency?

Uniforms are not a cure-all. Board members must remember it takes more than the clothes on your back to dress up the educational environment with an individual school.

Weightier issues than school uniforms loom 08/17/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 24, 2008 9:55am]
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