District elim­i­nates school uni­form pol­icy

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » In a sur­prise move that even sur­prised some board mem­bers, the Pottstown School Board unan­i­mously up­ended nearly 10 years of pol­icy May 17 and re­moved the school uni­form re­quire­ment from the lower grades when the stu­dents re­turn in the fall.

The ac­tion, which was not listed on the evening’s agenda, was the re­sult of two mo­tions by school board mem­ber Emanuel Wilk­er­son.

Wilk­er­son is a for­mer stu­dent mem­ber of the board and, as a high school stu­dent, suc­cess­fully ad­vo­cated for the sus­pen­sion of the uni­form re­quire­ment in the high school in fa­vor of a “tem­po­rary” dress code.

He was sub­se­quently elected to the board while still a se­nior in school.

Wilk­er­son’s first mo­tion was to make tem­po­rary dress code a per­ma­nent one.

The sec­ond mo­tion was to re­move the re­quire­ment that stu­dents in the mid­dle school and el­e­men­tary schools wear the trade­mark blue and white uni­forms.

In­stead, the board’s pol­icy com­mit­tee is now charged with com­ing up with a “com­pre­hen­sive” dress code to ap­ply to the lower grades be­fore school starts in the fall.

Board mem­bers Ray­mond Rose and Bonita Barn­hill were the only board mem­bers to ex­press a fond­ness for the uni­forms.

But Barn­hill said she rec­og­nized it could be a fi­nan­cial bur­den and given the board had passed a tax hike ear­lier in the evening, de­cided to try to lessen the fi­nan­cial bur­den on par­ents.

Both Wilk­er­son and Vice Pres­i­dent Katina Bear­den said the is­sue had been dis­cussed to death.

“It’s been on the agenda ad nau­seam,” said Bear­den, per­haps riff­ing on the irony that the mat­ter was in fact, not on that night’s board agenda.

In truth, the district has un­der­taken polls and held large pub­lic meet­ings on the sub­ject with the re­sult of­ten the same — half the peo­ple hate the uni­forms and the other half like them.

“Our con­cern should be that the stu­dents are prop­erly clothed, not what color shirts they wear. Our job is to give them the ed­u­ca­tion that they need,” Bear­den said.

Par­ent Clin­ton Brad­shaw told the board that the school uni­form “car­ries a stigma. It is not very em­pow­er­ing for stu­dents when

“Our con­cern should be that the stu­dents are prop­erly clothed, not what color shirts they wear.”

Katina Bear­den, Pottstown School Board Vice Pres­i­dent

the neigh­bor­ing school dis­tricts don’t have them.”

David Miller, who ran for the board and ap­plied for the board seat made open by the res­ig­na­tion of Ron Wil­liams, had the op­po­site view. He said the uni­forms kept bul­ly­ing down and in­stilled a sense of pride in the district.

Board Pres­i­dent Amy Fran­cis, who spear­headed the ef­fort to es­tab­lish the uni­form pol­icy in 2008, said she had done so with a de­sire to im­prove the district. At the time, she also touted the abil­ity of uni­forms to cut down on school vi­o­lence.

How­ever, she said, the is­sue had also dogged her through her many years on the board. “Dif­fer­ent times,” she said, adding “I’ll be happy to have this is­sue de­cided.”

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Un­der the pol­icy just dropped by the school board this week, stu­dents in Pottstown Mid­dle School and el­e­men­tary schools were re­quired to wear a uni­form con­sist­ing of blue, white and khaki.

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