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School Board Approves Uniforms For Students

Elementary And Middle School Pupils Affected; Officials Hope For A More Scholarly Tone

June 7, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

Hartford's school board on Tuesday approved a sweeping measure requiring school uniforms for all middle and elementary school students.

Teachers' union President Cathy Carpino applauded the measure, but warned that schools that don't have the resources to offer in-school suspensions won't be able to enforce the uniform policy.

Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who as school board chairman initiated the policy, agreed that enforcement will be a challenge but he pledged to find the support to make the plan work.

The uniforms policy, which school officials hope will eliminate distractions and set a scholarly tone, bans bluejeans and requires elementary school boys to wear blue or gray dress pants or knee-length shorts belted at the waist, solid blue or white shirts and navy blue or white socks.

Elementary school girls will have to wear solid navy blue or gray dress jumpers, skirts, skorts, pants or knee-length shorts with the same rules on belts and prohibitions on denim. Girls also may wear solid white or light blue blouses.

Middle school girls and boys must follow the same rules, but can add burgundy tops and khaki pants, jumpers and skirts.

If the thoughts expressed earlier in the day by Fox Middle School students are any measure of broader student opinion, then the policy is a bad one ... well, maybe not entirely bad... OK, it might be a good idea.

De'Angelo Gilbert knew what he thought: Terrible idea. "We don't want to be dressed like we look each other," the seventh-grader said with conviction.

Besides, De'Angelo said, "People won't be able to wear rest-in-peace shirts because we have to wear uniforms." In a city where school-age youngsters or their parents are killed on the streets every year, memorial T-shirts are everyday wear.

But De'Angelo didn't seem to mind a uniform with a little pizzazz.

"I like the Capital Prep uniform where the boys wear tuxedos. They look good. And I like that crest," De'Angelo said of the elaborate Capital Preparatory Magnet School uniform that has boys wearing blazers and ties in school colors and girls in plaid skirts and jackets.

"Yeah, we could have an `F' " as a crest, said Shaquana Cannon, a seventh-grader who only moments earlier couldn't see the upside to replacing her blue jeans and the rest-in-peace T-shirt she was wearing with a button-down collar shirt and a skirt.

Fox is not likely to require pricey jackets emblazoned with a school crest. Principal Andrew Serrao said jackets might be a little too rich for some of his parents, and a lot for his teachers to enforce in a school with more than 700 students.

Schools may add sweaters of approved colors and select an additional color from a list for tops. The detailed policy states appropriate lengths for shirts and pants, when to tuck shirts, approved styles of pants pockets and colors for sweat pants that are permitted on gym days.

In the cafeteria at Fox Tuesday afternoon, the clothing was pretty uniform: bluejeans and T-shirts. With a show of reluctant hands, more than half the students expressed support for the new policy.

Jade Weaver, a seventh-grader in a tight pink, short T-shirt that showed some skin and was emblazoned with the words "naughty girl," raised her hand in support of the new policy.

"Kids won't be able to dress inappropriately and it'll be cheaper for our parents," Jade said. She pledged to follow the rules - except, perhaps, for the prohibition on hoop or dangling earrings. It's important to her, too, that the uniform allow for a little pink.

Marcel Reid, an eighth-grader who won't have to worry about uniforms next year because she will be in high school, strongly supports uniforms, too.

"It could change what people think about us," Marcel said.

"Sometimes we dress inappropriately," she said, pointing to the large hole on her blue jeans to illustrate. The raggedy look is stylish, but Marcel supports a more polished look for the school.

Her friend agreed. "People driving by would think better of us," eighth-grader Gevonnie Riggins said.

But skeptics remain. Seventh-grader Jaquan Samuels, who looked sporty and clean-cut in his neat jeans and button-down casual shirt, was offended by the suggestion that drivers would base their opinion of Fox students on the clothing they wear. "It doesn't matter about your uniform," he said. "It matters about your performance."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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