District eliminates school uniform policy
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.”
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.