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Town Hall on School Uniforms Draws Out Big Opposition; Decision Set for Jan. 3

| November 15, 2011

The school board held its meeting at the Flagler Auditorium, to accommodate the expected large crowd. (© FlaglerLive)

About 150 people scattered over the 1,000-seat Flagler Auditorium this evening and told a Flagler County School board missing two of its five members why school uniforms are a bad idea, why they’re a good idea, why students shouldn’t all be punished for the bad taste of a few, how the school district should just enforce its existing dress code, how uniforms quash style and expression, how uniforms instill discipline, how “ridiculous” it is to impose uniforms at a time when unemployment and hard times are rampant.

It was the first public meeting devoted entirely to the matter in the school district’s latest attempt to institute a uniform policy in Flagler schools. The last attempt, in 2007, frayed before serious opposition, particularly from students.

“It didn’t seem that long ago, four or five years ago, that we had the same discussion,” board member Andy Dance said in his concluding statement, “and I don’t think the arguments have changed any since then. What has changed is, we’ve had five years of progressive budget cuts to the school system and the county is a lot poorer, and things are a lot harder on people. That is one thing that definitely has changed and would be a struggle for the county.”

This latest try at dressing the district’s students in uniforms is the initiative of John Fischer, the board’s newest and most conservative member, who wants uniforms in schools. But he wasn’t there tonight. “He has a family emergency,” Sue Dickinson, the board chairman, told one parent who asked why Fischer was absent. (Fischer’s wife struck an elderly Palm Coast resident with her car last week. The woman died Saturday.) Dickinson said Fischer was watching the proceedings on TV. Board member Colleen Conklin, also a supporter of uniforms, arrived about half=-way through the public comments from a conference in Orlando.

The board had no intention of deciding anything Tuesday evening—merely to keep gathering opinions and ideas until early January. “This board will make the final vote at the first meeting in January,” Sue Dickinson, the board chairman, said. That’s Jan. 3.

Going by the numbers, just 10 of the 50-some people who spoke supported uniforms. The rest were opposed, usually with passion, and more than half of those were students—representing the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.

Superintendent Janet Valentine had introduced the public meeting with a few numbers the district had recently gathered: the 64 percent of parents who support uniforms (according to an online survey the district conducted), the 71 percent of school employees who support uniforms, and the 77 percent of students, surveyed  at Flagler Palm Coast High School, who are opposed. That student perspective was unrelenting at Tuesday’s town hall.

“Kids want to express themselves in rainbow colors, like oranges and pinks and blues and purples,” said Sierra Higgins, a sixth grader at Belle Terre with a rainbow voice that belied the thunder in her successive points. “Bullies will find something else to pick on students for, their personality or their hair, their face or something. You really can’t do much for the bullies,” she said, turning in a petition opposing the idea—and including her teacher’s signature. “Style is like everything when you’re a kid. You want to express your style, you don’t want to remember your teen and tween and little kid years being horrifying because you wore a uniform.”

All but two students who spoke supported uniforms, but several parents did, one of them remembering how she sent her children to charter school  because uniforms were required there. That parent countered the notion that uniforms would impose too many costs (buying clothes or laundering them) by describing her experience with her own children: “Actually they can go a whole week without washing their uniforms because they wear white t-shirts underneath—with deodorant,” she said. And uniforms prepare students for the workplace. Students need to be expressing themselves through art work, music—not through their clothes, she said.

A Matanzas High School student opposing uniforms pointed out an irony sitting on stage: a big banner celebrating the district’s A rating, four years in a row—without uniforms. The A rating is the result of students using their heads, the student said. Uniforms would be a distraction of its own. “That’s giving them another reason to break dress code,” she said, for a price: “Not only are we going to have to buy uniforms, we’re going to have to buy weekend clothes, too.”

Michael Craig. A graduate of Flagler schools and Sierra’s stepfather, pointed out another irony: “I find it a little bit disconcerting that the schools can now advertise anything that they want to, to my children, yet you’re trying to take away my right as a parent to send them to school wearing whatever they like.  So the schools can advertise Woody’s and Pepsi and whatever I think even on school uniforms.”

There appeared to be no middle ground on the matter: students, parents, faculty, employees and residents at large are either for or against uniforms. But there is agreement for—or a complete absence of opposition to—the district’s existing dress code, which many people opposing uniforms said should be better enforced.

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21 Responses for “Town Hall on School Uniforms Draws Out Big Opposition; Decision Set for Jan. 3”

  1. w.ryan says:

    Unlike the Taser issue people came out. Also unlike the Taser issue there was a town hall meeting. Weighing the two issues I could truthfully saw “Hah?” I don’t have a clue what is driving these so call major issues. It’s quite obvious that our tax dollars are being wasted. We are not even properly informed.
    Big ups to all of the students that attended to say their piece. Finally their voice can be heard and I hope their voices aren’t silenced. They were all very intelligent and articulate. However I fair that once again the biggest bully in the room will win out.

  2. Walter Mahler says:

    Clothes don’t really make the man and they don’t make a student. If there are students who dress inappropriately deal with them. If there educational needs address them. Don’t claim to deal with an educational problem by demanding uniforms; help the teachers to better educate students and hold them both to high standards. Uniforms are just another misguided easy solution to a complex issue.

  3. Kendall says:

    Personally I support uniforms but if the way the current dress code is enforced is an indicator of how strict any uniform rules would be enforced, I’m not optomistic that kids will be held to any standards.

    I can’t understand why there is no accountability for teachers that don’t send kids to the office that have pants hanging off their butts, midriffs showing, short shorts & skirts.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    This school board has a hard time with the decision making process. It could be as a group they do not have a clue!

  5. meh says:

    I can’t believe we’re beating this horse again. Uniforms in a public school is a mockery of the entire definition of “public” school. If you think changing your clothes so everybody looks the same will stop bullies and keep our students focused, you’re kidding yourself. Lets pretend for a second this is all about stopping bullies, what does assigning uniforms leave for them? A students face, their size, their acne, their disabilities and so forth. If you can’t control an already in place school dress code policy, what makes you think you can control a “controlled” school uniform? What are you going to do to the students who don’t have any clean uniforms? Remove them from class so and place them in ICE for the remainder of the day? Ooh yeah, real beneficial ;) Keep it classy.

  6. bird from the past says:

    This issue has been going on for over 10 years. It did not work 10 years ago, why will it work now? My kids are now adults, I do not have any children in the school system today. Over 10 years ago, the school board did make it mandatory to wear uniforms. My children did. It did not last, maybe 2 months. What I noticed (and heard) over the two months are how the teachers were treating the children that wore the uniforms v.s. the children that either did not want to wear the uniforms or the parents that could not
    afford the uniforms. To me, the teachers became the “bullies”. Currently today, my opinion, again this
    will not work. Palm Coast is now a city, back 10 years ago it was a small town, and the school board
    did not make it work then. If they have say and control what the schools do, then why did it not work 10 years ago, then we would not still be talking about this issue again.

  7. Doug Chozianin says:

    Why are parents and teachers afraid of school uniforms???

    If school uniforms work in Flagler Schools, great! (I’m for anything that improves our substandard school system.)

    If school uniforms don’t work, go back to Mufi. (Nobody gets hurt.)


    Only 77% of Flagler High School Students Graduate. (Terrible.)

    Only 37% of FHS 10th graders passed the reading test. (63% failed.)

    Only 69% of FHS 10th graders passed the math test. (31% flailed.)

    You better sit down for this one…

    Only 36% of FHS11th graders passed the science test. (64% failed.)

    School statistics and rankings are tough to come by. I suspect it’s a massive cover-up by school boards, school administrators, school teachers (unions) and state legislators. They don’t want you to know how bad the school system is. Get involved!

    Parents, if you don’t take control of the school system and throw out all the education related incompetents that are destroying your kid’s future, you’ll have to support all these failures for the rest of your life. Think about it.

  8. Kip Durocher says:

    I see eight people sitting on the throne above the commoners. If two members were not there who are these people? Are they the anointed sub-royalty of the school board?

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Kip, there was the school board attorney, the district’s recording secretary, the student representative and a senior director who was there as time keeper. The first three are usually either sitting alongside the board members or near them at the other venue.

  9. w.ryan says:

    Doug, what you’ve stated above is why I am upset. What does uniforms have to do with learning. This is wasted energy and money brought on by an incompetent newly elected board member that wanted some kind of platform to stand on so he could get elected. Uniforms isn’t the issue. The real issues hasn’t been brought to the floor. I have a fourth grader that is totally confused by the many contradictions with what she is being taught on a daily basis. She has so much homework some nights that she goes to bed after 10pm and sometimes till past 11pm. We help her as best we can. My wife and I question what she says she was taught to do from what we know is academically sound. It’s perplexing. Our children are experimented on based on someones belief that we can improve on education but the bottom line is that what worked before is the best way. As for the high schoolers – the genie is out of the bottle as far as behavior is concerned. We have to bring them back into the fold but not with zero tolerance. These kids are wiser now than ever before. The key is to bring them back into the fold and get them to work with us for a united purpose. We must all know by now that you can lead a horse to water but… Lets try some inclusive ways to bring them around to learning. This doesn’t mean force by the fashion police.

  10. Binkey says:

    Do uniforms make education more effective more efficient? Is it something that must be done to be in compliance with state or federal mandates? Does it create unnecessary hardships on families?

  11. Kip Durocher says:

    “senior director who was there as time keeper” How much does that cost? Senior director, sounds like at least seventy-five thousand dollars a year ~ to keep time?
    Let the senior director go and have the recording secretary keep time.
    Better yet have the Board member take turns keeping time to earn their 35 thousand a year.

  12. dealingwithidiots1 says:

    Why is everyone wasting sooooo much time on this issue….is this the only important issue that requires the attention of the school board and everyone else?
    A dress code already exists so follow it…..with a uniform policy families will have the added cost of having to pay for at least 1 or 2 uniforms per child in addition to their regular out of school clothes!
    focus your efforts on TEACHING and student development for a change…

  13. justin says:

    I agree that they violate your freedom of expression, And if they pass no one will were it ,i can promise you that. So i think this uniform thing is a waste of time if they pass or not.Most people don’t understand that lot of kids will drop out or change schools and the county will lose even more money.

  14. Liana G says:

    To the poster who wrote “Clothes don’t really make the man and they don’t make a student” yet that is exactly what I heard from those against uniforms…that they take away a person’s individuality, their freedom of expression. Sadly this line is exactly what our consumerist driven society has successfully ingrained in us through subliminal conditioning.

    How many of our young men and women are doing things they should not have to just to fit in? Victims of a culture that tells them they need to have this, look like this, do this, in order to fit in. Fit in? Isn’t individuality all about being oneself and nothing to do with fitting in with the latest fashion fad or acquiring stuff (we have all these singers/entertainers with their brand of clothing, cosmetic, fragrance, stationery, and the works. Then there’s the FAKE – hair, hair color, skin tone, boobs, butt, nose, mouth, nails, and the works). While some steal so that they can have these things, others prostitute themselves, or sell drugs. Yes, do let them express themselves so that they can fit it by whatever means possible for them.

    One of the main reasons cited for the high college drop out rate is debt incurred by students juggling school and work to pay for stuff they want and cannot afford. They go from being a full time student with a part time job to being a part time student with a full time job, and then to a college drop out with two jobs.

    I was never more pleased when one of my daughters, she was 11 years old at the time, said to me “mom, if they want me to advertise their products, they should pay me”. Kudos to her for figuring it out.

  15. Tess says:

    I come from a system of wearing school uniforms throughout my “public” grade school years. When it boils down in the matter, it did not change much academically- if a Child is having difficulties learning and lacks the resources either at home or school uniforms won’t change this. HOWEVER in saying this the Flagler County school hours are poor for the Secondary and Senior schools- most of these children are out of school before I leave work and out and about causing mischief. Having the uniforms allowed the community to recognize that u were a student and to what school u belong- hence deterring after school crime. How I see it now i’m o.k. either way- but it would be nice not having to shop consistently at A&F for $98 designer jeans- all because it’s the “in” thing. Lol!

  16. w.ryan says:

    Liana G says: If you want a productive society, education should be cost free. The proprietary nature of education within the last 30 years exclude many from going to college. This is the next bubble to burst. I don’t think you see the full picture. After borrowing all this money for college there are no jobs to help pay for the loans these kids take out. This speak for a capitalistic society that squeezes the most for less devaluing the importance of education. It’s just another roadblock to stymie the masses. One point you’ve made is that our society places to much importance on status symbol items. I see this as an incentive. The erosion of ethics is the real issue Uniforms are window dressing and a substitute for real progress.

  17. Liana G says:

    @ W.ryan

    Today more students are attending college than in the past and that is good. There are also pell grants, financial aid, and scholarships to help many who would otherwise be unable to afford college. Agreed there are no jobs to pay off the loans these kids take out, but kids also need to be savvy about the amount of loans they take out to minimize their debt. If the cost of the degree is greater than the salary expected, that factor should be taken into consideration. A friend of mine racked up $90,000 in student loans for a degree in psychology, after changing her major several times. Today she is a teacher. Mine will cost me $10,000. A psychology degree is the most pursued degree but there are not enough jobs to accommodate all these degrees.

    30 years ago manufacturing jobs made up for a robust middle class and did not require a college degree. Manufacturing jobs today are extinct. I do agree with you that status symbol is an incentive. Some high schools give student money for earning good grades because sadly it works.

    Several years ago, credit card companies and other industries (cigarettes, Pepsi, etc) were banned from soliciting college students on campus with free junk to get them hooked on their brand and easy credit. The practice got out of control prompting colleges to step in and ask for help in curtailing/limiting their accessibility. Advertisers are extremely clever at crafting their trade. Big pharma spends more money on advertising than on research, and when a drug gets pulled for causing too much severe ‘serious side effects’, they simply rebrand the product and advertise it to cure something else.

    I don’t see uniforms as window dressing. I see it as removing distractions, and instilling that pride that motivates people. FPC has Bulldog Pride, and they bash the Pirates. You see it at games and events when they are dressed in their ‘school color’ – all you can see is green everywhere. The students get all puffed up, singing the praises of their school, one would think they were at Hogworths. And on an ordinary day, many of those same students would say ‘ man our school sucks’. I have a kid there, I hear her say it. Yet, she a whole different person when she wears her ‘Bulldog Pride’ t-shirt.

    Here is an article I came across:

    •A case study of the effects of adopting school uniforms in Long Beach, CA which appeared in Psychology Today in September, 1999, reported the following effects from the switch to uniforms in 1995:

    ◦Overall, the crime rate dropped by 91%
    ◦School suspensions dropped by 90%
    ◦Sex offenses were reduced by 96%
    ◦Incidents of vandalism went down 69%

    •Also reporting on the Long Beach Unified School District, an Education Week article in 1998 reported that since 1994, assaults in grades Kindergarten through 8 had decreased by 85%.

  18. w.ryan says:

    Liana G says: I don’ believe everything I read. I’ve check your link and find that it’s flawed. As for studies conducted, anyone can twist studies. Those stats you’ve sited above are irrelevant without the source info. Uniforms don’t make the student. I also keep hearing that we must prepare the kids for college. Students don’t wear uniforms in college. They exercise their minds. I love football as well but this is not a great reference and judging by the way these kids had pride in themselves to stand up against wearing uniforms at the town hall Tuesday tells me that the uniform they all wore in common was pride in themselves.

  19. Liana G says:


    I will agree that I myself do not believe everything I read and that statistics can prove anything we want it to prove. But you didn’t give any for yours. Given that your profession is linked to consumerism I can relate to your perspective. I am a cynic too.

    Maybe if students were made to wear uniform in college they would not incur so much debt? Who is to say…

  20. Mike says:

    All the parents that are saying the school needs to inforce the dress code well it’s not the deans that are not its the teachers that don’t inforce it. So all u old people that have nothing better 2 do that want the unaforms your not the one who weres it and yes this is differnt from work stuff cause kids need 2 be kids and express them self not be treated like they are in prison…

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