Article Comment 

Incidents at school prompt uniform policy


Bonnie Coblentz



Starkville school officials intend for their students to wear uniforms in class next year as part of stepped up safety efforts, but the policy change came on a split decision. 


All five board members were present for the Monday meeting where they voted 3-2 to implement a dress code policy to be designed by the administration and brought back to the school board. Superintendent Judy Couey said she hopes to present a proposed policy to the board in a month. 


Pickett Wilson made the motion for uniforms and was seconded by Eddie Myles. Board President Walter Taylor joined them in voting for the measure while Bill Weeks and Keith Coble voted against. The great majority of the school board''s votes are unanimous, and rarely is a vote split so closely. 


"The only reason we''re doing this is to be able to quickly identify someone on our campuses," Couey said. "If we''re going to have a true safety policy for our students, we have to look at all things." 


She made it clear that safety was the reason she recommended the policy for students and staff. 


"The issue of whether or not we will have uniforms is not something I wish to debate anymore," she said. 


Couey said in the meeting that there were two instances in the past year "that indicated a need for uniforms to be able to identify students and faculty. Uniforms are not the end-all solution for all problems, but they are part of the plan." 


Later, Couey said the two incidents involved high school students not enrolled in Starkville public schools who tried to blend in with Starkville students. One tried to get on a bus, and another got in a classroom at the high school and tried to provoke a fight with a student. 


Three parents attended the meeting to hear the discussion on school uniforms and spoke up from the audience during the board''s discussion. From their seats, all expressed displeasure at parents not having a voice in this decision. One mother said she tried Monday morning to get on the board''s agenda but was not told how to do this. 


Many public boards have a time for anyone to appear before them and speak for a limited time without being placed on the agenda. The Starkville School District does not have such a time for public comment. 


In 2009, the school district conducted two surveys to measure public sentiment toward school uniforms. Results for both were fairly close. Couey called them inconclusive and said they failed to get an adequate response. Criticism of these surveys involved the limited size of the respondent pool and the ability of a person to vote more than once. 


Couey also noted Monday, "The incidents had not occurred when the original polling took place." 


Uniforms alone will not solve the safety issue, Couey said. Other parts of the safety plan will include student IDs, building perimeters and limited access to facilities. 


"In the past year, the Starkville School District has completely overhauled the safety and security of the transportation department, installing cameras, microphones and navigation systems," said Nicole Thomas, the school district''s public information officer. "The passage of a school bond issue has allowed the Starkville School District to create safer campuses with modernized technology. The district has also adopted an alert notification system which includes voice and e-mail messaging for parents and staff." 


"With several large campuses, implementing a uniform policy is a reasonable next step toward making our students and our campuses even safer," Couey said.  


Staff will also be required to wear uniforms, Couey said, and input from school administrators will be used in developing staff uniform guidelines. 


"The objective is safety. As a board member, it is our job to see to the safety of our students and our staff first," Myles sad before the vote. 


In making the motion, Wilson said the board is "legally responsible for the safety of our kids."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Oco commented at 1/12/2010 1:38:00 PM:

If they make my kids wear a uniform, I WILL SUE.


Article Comment Tired of the control freaks commented at 1/12/2010 6:21:00 PM:

This is a complete joke. School uniforms do NOT improve school safety in any way whatsoever. The school board is using this as an excuse to ram this down our throats. If someone wants to sneak into the school, won't they just wear the uniform? School uniforms are not supported by the research and there is NO reason to infringe upon my kids right to decide how they appear at school. In addition, forcing teachers to wear a uniform is demeaning and ignorant. Teachers are professionals, not fast food workers. The uniform they are proposing is going to make them look they are high school football coaches and put them on the same level as the students. This is absolutely a ridiculous decision that was made without consulting the parents. I hope that everyone who disagrees with this (and how the schools are being run behind closed doors) will send contact the Starkville school board to complain.


Article Comment December1 commented at 1/12/2010 6:58:00 PM:

I'm curious to know if any of the parents upset by this actually took the time to participate in the 2 surveys. Something tells me those who didn't bother will be the one's screaming the loudest over this. This is one issue I hope the school board doesn't cave in to pressure on.


Article Comment Tired too commented at 1/12/2010 7:19:00 PM:

I am 100% in favor of the uniform policy. It's the parents complaining NOT the students! Most parents do not participate in surveys nor do they bother to complete forms sent home! Stop the whinning and support your school!


Article Comment Laughing commented at 1/12/2010 7:50:00 PM:

I don't even go to school, graduated in 2000, but I can just imagine all the uppity parents who just don't want their children to dress like people they feel are beneath them. Kids can dress however they want when they're at home or out, but if they're getting an education on my tax dime, I'd prefer they do everything they can to make sure they get a great one... and not just let the stupid kids coast through like they've been doing. That's the reason China owns us. Kids don't go to school to be fashionable, they go to learn. I would have been happy to wear a uniform if we had them at my school. I went to a private school though, so there was a stricter dress code anyway.


Article Comment OKAY PEOPLE commented at 1/13/2010 8:32:00 AM:

The school board made a decision. The surveys were sent out. Parents please learn to support our schools. Parents who are opposed to this change and planning to sue do us all a favor (MOVE). This change is not that drastic. I feel it will put all the kids on a equal footing at least in dressing. It just may help improve grades kids now days focus too much on fashion ect. Not grades. Parents should be up in arms about our drop out rate not uniforms.


Article Comment Agrees commented at 1/13/2010 9:13:00 AM:

I think school uniforms are a wonderful thing. If you feel that forcing your child to wear a uniform is taking away some of their personality and individuality, then you really need to work with your child!! The clothes someone wears should not have any bearing on who they are as a person. School uniforms look nice, promote unity, and help with safety issues. Not to mention parents save money on expensive school clothes and those kids who come from less fortunate homes are not reminded of it on a daily basis.


Article Comment Common Sense commented at 1/13/2010 9:33:00 AM:

I agree completely with Okay People. Of course no one will admit it but I think a lot of the opposition to uniforms stems from the idea that they may very well lessen the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots". Let's not fool ourselves thinking it doesn't exist because it does. Also with uniforms the teachers won't have to spend so much time policing those who try to get away with too-short skirts/shorts, baggy pants, offensive t-shirts, etc. since everyone will be in uniform. Instead they can spend that time doing what they're paid to do, educating our kids! From what I've personally seen uniforms aren't such a bad idea for the teachers either. Not all, but some of them seem to be dressing less and less professional. I'm sick of hearing all these excuses such as " uniforms stifle individuality, they lower self-esteem, blah, blah, blah". Nonsense!!! Parents are already threatening to sue the school district over this, going as far as to accuse the school board of being control freaks. Really? Who's looking like the control freak here? If given a fair chance most kids will actually have a sense of pride when wearing that school uniform, which will have a POSITIVE effect on self-esteem. Think about what you're teaching your kids...whenever something doesn't go your way just throw a hissy fit and try to intimidate until you get your way. Change happens, and it's not always bad so suck it up and deal with it!!!


Article Comment Columbus City Parent commented at 1/13/2010 10:25:00 AM:

My kids are attending a school this year where, for the first time, they had to wear uniforms. They don't mind it. In fact, I was suprised to hear my pre-teen daughter say she was glad of it. It does cut out worrying about what to wear and the whole competition of 'everyone is wearing this'. It doesn't stifle creativity. One's clothing is not one's only method expressing your individuality. If you think that, then your creativity has already been stifled. I would not say that it cuts out expense for new school clothes. But it does make shopping for them simpler, as long as the uniform regulations are clear.


Article Comment renita burwell commented at 1/13/2010 10:53:00 AM:

Give me a break! Columbus MS is a town so large that lazy administrators didn't even realize that they had non-students in their presence? The only thing uniforms will do is stigmatize the school district as ghetto and parents who can will flee the system. Parents, put your foot down and tell the system to stop being lazy and do their jobs which is to educate the children and not to worry about their clothes.


Article Comment Reading is Fundamental commented at 1/13/2010 11:43:00 AM:

Renita did you even bother to read the whole article? This is going on in Starkville not Columbus. I disagree about uniforms stigmatizing the school district as "ghetto" as you so eloquently put it. For those who want to flee the system, I say good riddance.


Article Comment Safety issue? Really?? commented at 1/13/2010 1:43:00 PM:

I had two very real safety issues with Overstreet Elementary that went unresolved. I had discussions with the teacher, principal and even Judy Couey herself. Nothing changed, no one did anything and the school is still unprotected. I'm angry about the rush to uniforms when the problems that are prevalent have gone unnoticed. I think the Starkville School District needs to take more time implementing safer schools before rushing to uniforms. Also, what happened to a Dress Code? Why are they skipping that?


Article Comment deechell commented at 1/13/2010 2:27:00 PM:

I currently have 4 kids in the Oktibbeha County School District which has required our kids to wear uniforms for quite some time. I am heavily involved in the school a well, and from my understanding, their uniform policy has eased a lot of problems that the administration was facing. With all of the kids dressed alike, the kids are not as focused on their clothes as much.And believe me, the kids eventually do warm up to it. I've noticed a reduction in fights as well. With everyone wearing the same uniform, in some ways, everyone is on the same level. It makes it easier on a lot of other less fortunate kids. Wearing uniforms does make it easier to identify someone that does not belong to the school. True enough, anyone could wear a uniform, but how likely is that going to happen. I think a lot of the problems many parents are having is that their children are used to wearing nice fashionable clothes and will be upset with a uniform policy in place. I think more measures SHOULD be taken to help with making sure kids are in a safe environment. I don't think the board will stop short of uniforms. YOU have to admit the SSD is a HUGE district and every measure needs to be taken to make sure the kids are going to be safe in every possible way.


Article Comment Parent commented at 1/13/2010 5:31:00 PM:

I applaud the Superintendent(s) and board members for taking steps to improve our schools. 'Change' is always a difficult thing. It's a challenge that they are willing to tackle. We as parent's should support their efforts in making ours schools a better place for education! Many parents have a misconception of 'the uniform'. Khaki pants and a pullover shirt of school colors? Sounds like spirit day everyday! GO JACKETS!


Article Comment SHS student commented at 1/13/2010 7:27:00 PM:

I do not want uniforms. I think they are pointless, ridiculous, and unnecessary. The school board say it's for safety. Safety? Really, how would that make us safer? Wouldn't it be easier for an intruder to go buy some khaki pants and a black polo shirt (or whatever else they want us to wear) and get in the school and fit in? Then it might be harder for the staff to identify the intruder. But the teachers know their students anyway! Why would they need a uniform to know that's their student? Also, uniforms would take away some individuality (and my creativity is not stifled). People can express themselves through clothing. And I do wear nice fashionable clothing, and I enjoy wearing my clothes, and if we get uniforms then I won't be able to wear my clothes to school. I go to school almost 180 days a year, and I should be able to wear my clothes regularly. I spend a good amount of time picking out my outfits, and I enjoy it. My clothing style is part of who I am and I just want to be myself (cliche I know, but true). I already hate the dress code we have right now! Oh and also, parents would have to go buy their students a whole new wardrobe that agrees with the uniform policy. People keep commenting about the less fortunate students, and how we would all be on the same level. Well if they're less fortunate then they might not be able to afford buying new clothes. Also, people commented that people who don't like this policy should move, well I wish I could move and flee the system.


Article Comment That''s Life commented at 1/13/2010 9:42:00 PM:

SHS Student, I'm glad you enjoy wearing your nice fashionable clothing. I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to wear them after school, on the weekends, during holidays, summer, etc. Hopefully you devote as much time to your studies as you do to picking out your wardrobe. Of course we all like to dress in our favorite styles, but clothes shouldn't make us who we are. With that said, you are still you whether you're wearing your favorite jeans or a uniform. There are going to be plenty of times in life when you won't like something but a part of growing up is learning to accept and comply with rules sometimes whether you agree with them or not.


Article Comment R.Cunning commented at 1/14/2010 8:58:00 AM:

Come on people,if you are that mad about something this simple,let me give you some advice.Go take your kids out of the public school system and put them in private school.Because it sounds like to me a lot of you have deeper issues than just a uniform policy.Get real and have some common sense!


Article Comment Anna commented at 1/14/2010 11:40:00 AM:

I think this is set up to make the kids whose parents can not afford name brand clothes feel better. I am a teacher and I can say that uniforms has NOT improved learning and behavior. Instead of trying to make the haves suffer because of the have nots, let's focus on making sure that we are teaching students. I do not think that we have any time to be worried about what students are wearing. Let's work on improving test scores!


Article Comment Carolyn Adams-Price commented at 1/14/2010 3:14:00 PM:

Adolescence is hard enough without someone forcing you to wear clothing that you do not wish to wear. I am a developmental psychologist, and there is 30 years of research demonstrating that imposing arbitrary and authoritarian rules (such as uniforms) on children will reduce their creativity and motivation in school. Yes, some kids don't mind, but many do.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that uniforms will actually make our kids safer, just some anecdotes.
Finally, those of us who are opposed to uniforms have been saying so for years in letters and on the surveys. We are a large proportion of the school district, and our kids tend to be especially bright. It is our school district too, so don't tell us to go away----unless you really, really want to see the SPS test scores go down, down, down.


Article Comment Laughing (again) commented at 1/15/2010 1:36:00 PM:

I would also add that people don't get to wear what they want to wear when they become adults, either. You think you can get away with wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt to your high-profile business job? I don't think so. Business suit for you, dress for you. Work at McDonald's? Gotta wear those uniforms. School is a student's job.


Article Comment Stop making assumptions commented at 1/20/2010 4:18:00 PM:

Please stop making assumptions about those of us who are against uniforms. I was a 'have not' growing up and uniforms didn't solve that. Mine were hand me downs and used and stuck out like a sore thumb. Now that I am in a better financial state, I do not want to have to buy my kids uniforms for school and clothes for outside school. Right now everything they wear does double duty. My argument is with the process the school board used. I did answer the surveys. We went from surveys to magically passing the policy. I am a researcher, I have read everything I can get my hands on and there isn't anything to support the safety argument. And there are intermediate steps that could be taken that would be less drastic. I appreciate that feelings are running high but civil would be nice. I am not a control freak, nor concerned about the fashion aspect. I would prefer not to spend time on this at all. Given the shape are schools are in with respect to quality of education, there are better things to spend time on. The issue is with how this came about. Parents should have a say in what happens in our schools. I want my kids to have a public school education so I won't be going away but I will voice my concerns as respectfully as possible.


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