Parents still split on GASD uniform policy


Peggy Thomas didn't think there would be a problem with how her grandson was dressed last week when he returned to the William B. Tecler Arts in Education Magnet School in Amsterdam for the 2013-14 academic year.

Thomas said the 10-year-old boy was dressed in a pair of gray shorts and a gray-and-white striped shirt. The problem? He wasn't dressed according to the school's uniform policy -- which requires students to wear collared shirts with solid colors only.

Thomas said her grandson was forced to go to the nurse's office and put on a used T-shirt for the day.

"[He was] made a spectacle of and was embarrassed in front of his whole class," she said.

Although the Greater Amsterdam School District has had a uniform dress policy in place for its elementary schools since 2005, officials plan to make sure it's followed this school year.

However, Superintendent Thomas Perillo said the level of enforcement will be left up to building principals.

Students in the district's four elementary schools are required to wear what Perillo called a "uniform" when they attend school, which is set by each building.

While students at Lynch Literacy Academy and Amsterdam High School aren't required to wear a uniform, each building does have a dress code.

Parents are still split on the district's policy. Some favor it, saying it's an equalizer among students.

Others, however, oppose it, saying the dress code should be in place for all the schools -- and equally enforced.

As each elementary school became a magnet school, a district committee was formed consisting of principals, staff and parents to pick a unique uniform for each school. From there, identifying features had to be chosen, so a survey was sent out, according to Perillo.

"We feel as though it's beneficial for the students," said Perillo.

One parent, who was open about discussing the dress code but asked to remain anonymous, has a daughter who currently attends William H. Barkley MicroSociety Magnet School. She said, "I think they're targeting the wrong group. Young kinds just like to run and play. It's the middle school and high school they should look at, or have a dress code for all school levels."

She did admit that it was easy to dress her daughter in the morning.

Amanda Watras, who has a daughter attending Tecler, agreed that it is easier to dress her daughter in the morning, but also added "I think it's a great idea. It's a nice opportunity for kids to get on the same playing field."

The Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications is one school which will "encourage" students to follow the dress code.

"It's always been a policy here at Marie Curie," said Principal John Penmanl.

He also said he's never had a major problem with students not following the policy, although, it doesn't not seemed to be enforced, only "encouraged."

The dress code, which can be found in the school's website, states that all students must wear a solid white, red or tan shirt. The shirt must be polo or button-down style and tucked into the student's pants or skirt.

Acceptable pants, shorts and skirt colors are also solid white, red, black or tan.

No cargo style pants or denim may be worn while shorts and skirts are meant to be no higher then knee length.

Jackets and over coats must be the appropriate size, but the color is at the discretion of the parent.

Jackets, as well as sweaters with hoods, are not to be worn in the building once the morning bell has rung and students have entered the classroom.

Barkley has a dress code which requires students to wear solid colored long or short sleeve shirts, with colors, in either red, white or blue. Students are also encouraged to wear tan, black, or navy pants, shorts, skorts or jumpers.

The Barkley parent was skeptical about how long that school's policy would be enforced.

"Last year it lasted four weeks," she said.

The mother also explained how there was a letter sent out, stating that the dress policy would be enforced and if a child didn't show up in the appropriate clothing they would be sent to the nurse's office to change.

Perillo said that if a child shows up to school not wearing appropriate clothing, the district "notify" the parent "with a phone call or note" asking them to dress their child in the right clothes, according to the dress code.

He went on to say the district does "not discipline for not wearing the uniform" by such methods as detention or being sent to the office because officials don't want the student to "lose classroom time."

The purpose of the dress code, as written in the Barkley Code of Conduct, states, "At Wm. H. Barkley MicroSociety Magnet School we are working towards building unity among our students, and through the use of the dress code we are making out community stronger. The colors of the dress code were chosen because they coincide with our MicroSociety discovery groups which are red, white and blue."

Students will not be allowed to wear anything which is considered a safety hazard, such as flip-flops. It is also deemed inappropriate to wear any clothing promoting or endorsing the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs as well as anything encouraging other illegal or violent behavior.

The dress code can be found in its entirety on the school's website as part of the code of conduct.

"The same policy is followed in all the elementary schools," said Perillo.

Perillo said by having this policy in place, it "puts students on the same playing field."

Thomas said she believes the school should be worrying more about academics and less about clothing.

"I'm just [disgusted]," she said.

Tecler Principal Bethany Schill said she has not sent any students to the nurse, and this is the first time she has heard Thomas' situation.

"There are a few families who have chosen to follow the dress code and are supportive of it, but there are some families that say it's not for them," Schill said.

If parents don't have available money to buy clothing that satisfies the dress code, they may pick up clothing for their child from the Clothes Closet.

The Clothes Closet is meant to assist students and families in following the school's dress code.

"At the start of every year, some parents buy new clothes to put in the Clothes Closet," said Perillo. "If students grow out of their clothes or don't have siblings then they donate their clothes."

"I prefer the uniform," said Yaisa Torres, who has a child attending Tecler. "It makes things easier and better."

She also explained how the uniforms help avoid problems among students.

Students at the R.J. McNulty Academy for International Students and Literacy Magnet School are expected to follow the same dress policy as the other elementary schools. The only difference is the color of their shirts, which can either be solid white, navy blue or gray.

Perillo believes the dress code is "a good working system."

"It's been working very well and is supported by the majority of parents," he said.

Perillo also said he knows "there are parents who don't support it and I understand, but most parents do support the dress policy."

Students who attend Lynch and Amsterdam High School are allowed to wear regular clothes. These schools "follow a dress policy for dressing appropriately." They are not permitted to wear anything that is considered distracting, unsafe or has inappropriate jesters.

Considerations is given for variations of the dress code in the elementary schools for religious and health reasons.