So, let me put my cards on the table.

I'm on the Bullard School Site Council this year. Two years ago, I served as Council President, and this is my third year on the Council. One of the main responsibilities of the SSC is to rule on matters of dress code.
A parent group (Bullard Pride) has for some time maintained a presence on the SSC. Bullard Pride is heavily populated by former Bullard grads concerned about what they perceive as neglect of their alma mater by the district, to the extent that they pushed to elect the former SSC President (Michelle Asadoorian) to the Fresno Unified Board of Trustees.

They were successful in that, and Ms. Asadoorian is presently the Board's clerk.

I'm just a teacher, but I decided to cast my lot with this group and its fortunes after participating in a SSC-sponsored 'fact-finding tour' of Long Beach Unified, which drew national attention back in the mid-1990's by adopting a uniform policy for K-8, as well as converting one of their high schools (Wilson Classical High School) to uniforms. Here's a video that shows some of the things we saw and heard on that tour:

Both the district (and the Long Beach Police Department) have been extraordinarily successful at reducing crime and violence both at their school sites and within the general community.

The thought was, could adopting a school uniform policy to supplement the site's existing dress code be part of a comprehensive set of reforms, one which could address our growing safety concerns, and (along the way) promote improved attendance, school pride and academic achievment?

Our principal (Brian Beck), who did not participate in the original fact-finding effort, certainly thinks so.

The FUSD Board will discuss possible changes to board policy affecting this effort on January 26th, and then (based on that discussion) will rule on board policy on February 9th, and presumably that same evening will either give a 'thumbs up' or a 'thumbs down' on the adoption of uniforms.

I hold no illusions. Requiring uniforms in and of itself will not improve school performance across the board. I am convinced, however, that it could give BHS an edge in 'branding' itself within our community and serve as a focal point for change, as it did in Long Beach. It is a symbol that could become a sign. I am committed to making sure every Bullard student and parent knows about it, understands their options and considers what might possible if a community finds a common vision for excellence.

We shall see.


Burke said...

As an alum, k-8 teacher, and resident of a former communist country I think uniforms are unnecessary. Yeah it will iron out some problems but I only see it creating others. It just all seems to utopias to me. It's hard to argue against uniform policies because logically they make a lot of since but in practice I tend to think other wise. I would much rather BHS be know for high level academics and well rounded liberal arts education then for forcing students to confine to clothing standards they generally dislike.

Calladus said...

My old high school in Texas had a very (very!) strict dress code. To this day, I'm incapable of wearing pants without a belt, and my shirts are ALWAYS tucked in.

Even the strict dress code without uniforms caused financial hardships for some families. The poor families technically met the guidelines, and the kids of wealthy families wore stylishly fashionable clothes that fit the criteria.

My wife Won wore a very strict uniform as a student in Korea. The color and design of the uniform had to meet exact requirements.

Some poor families wore hand-me-down uniforms, or bought them from bargain uniform distributors. The kids of wealthy families wore uniforms that were created out of expensive, top of the line material.

If you put a poor kid next to a wealthy kid and examined the two uniforms you would see that they both met the rules exactly, but the poor kid's uniform looked poor, and the rich kid's uniform looked really nice.

It takes a lot of effort if you really want the kids to be "uniform". Either you specify the uniform details all the way down to the thread count, or you specify which places are allowed to supply the uniforms.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Unfortunately, BHS's academic standards have dropped since I joined the faculty. If we were a school whose test scores were as good as any other school in the area and putting a significant number of students into Division I colleges, as we were the year I was hired, this criticism would have more force with me.

As for uni's for the haves vs. uni's the have-nots, the standard uni is fairly generic and affordable and financial assistance will be available for as many families as need them. Target has already pledged to donate a couple thousand dollars of shirts, etc.

Will the kids still know which kids live on the bluffs, and which live in apartments? Sure. But those differences will no longer figure heavily in their fashion statements.

You are of course right. This IS a lot of work. I wouldn't be doing it if I hadn't seen for myself that this can work, and work in an equitable way.

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