Reps suggest uniform policy in Region 16


REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education is looking into implementing a school uniform policy after the idea was suggested by two state legislators.

In a letter addressed to Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin and school board Chair Donna Cullen, state representatives Theresa Conroy (D-105) and Lezlye Zupkus (R-89) voiced their “strong support” for the implementation of a school uniform program next school year.

“As you are aware, Region 16 is home to residents from various socioeconomic levels, from lower-income to the more affluent. … At a time in our state’s economy when families are financially struggling, with many living paycheck to paycheck, a school uniform program would greatly reduce the cost burden by providing an economical alternative for clothing while creating a level playing field among students,” the legislators wrote in the letter.

The letter was presented to the board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, at its meeting May 27. The board has had discussions in the past about school uniforms, Yamin said, but the last one was about 10 years ago.

The current dress code spells out what type of clothing is prohibited, but not what students have to wear. In 2013, the board approved revisions to the dress code policy.

The revisions added some prohibited clothing, including clothing with excessive holes and attire that can create a hostile environment, such as clothing with sexually harassing comments or symbols. The revisions also added an emphasis on school staff to implement the dress code, set forth an appeal process for parents and laid out clear escalating repercussions for violations.

Conroy, whose district includes Beacon Falls, and Zupkus, whose district includes Prospect, wrote that a uniform policy has many benefits, “the most important of those are to keep students focused on their education, not their clothing, and to reduce bullying and peer pressure.”

The legislators added in the letter that studies have also shown that school uniform programs have positive overall effects on students, including increased pride in their schools and a sense of unity and belonging, which contributes to a decrease in student behavioral issues.

Conroy and Zupkus wrote they support a uniform program that “is flexible and offers parents and students the ability to have options,” and pointed to a new policy adopted in the Waterbury school system as a successful implementation of the program.

The Waterbury Board of Education adopted a stricter dress code policy for high school students earlier this year. The changes take effect in the 2015-16 school year. According to Waterbury Republican-American archives, the policy narrows options for shirts and bottoms to two colors — black districtwide and one more color varying by high school. Middle school students at Waterbury Arts Magnet School will also be affected, as they share a building with high school students, according to the archives.

The initial reaction to the idea was a no for at least one board member. Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella said she didn’t favor the idea since Region 16 is a public school system.

The board referred the matter to its policy committee to review.

Cullen said, in a subsequent interview, the idea is worth researching. She said the board will seek input from parents and students with a survey.

“I really want to hear how people feel about it, especially the parents and students,” Cullen said.


  1. Studies on the effectiveness of uniform policies in public schools have proven them to *not* significantly impact the areas they are touted to help. David L. Brunsma (a sociology professor at the University of Missouri) in his article “School Uniform Policies in Public Schools” in Principal magazine (2006), which summarized his eight year study of uniform policy effectiveness, concluded that “Despite media coverage, which has been exceedingly selective and misrepresentative, and despite the anecdotal meanderings of politicians, community members, educators, board members, parents, and students, uniforms have not been effective in achieving the outcomes they were assumed to aid:
    – Reducing violence and behavioral problems;
    – Fostering school unity and improving the learning environment;
    – Reducing social pressures and leveling status differentials;
    – Increasing student self-esteem and motivation;
    – Saving parents money on clothing for their children;
    – Improving attendance; and
    – Improving academic achievement.”

    Property values generate taxes for the schools. Brunsma’s study shows that a sudden change to uniforms by a school district actually communicates that something went wrong in the schools. Home buying families may perceive our schools as problematic. Property values can drop due to the perception of troubled schools and a vicious cycle ensues. How do we attract homebuyers and raise our property values, thereby funding our schools, if our schools are perceived as having problems?

    Uniform policies have not been proven to help and may even hurt Region 16 instead. Ineffective policies must not be dictated. Effective enforcement of existing policies should be the answer.

  2. Also I wanted to mention, how expensive is it to go shop at Aero, Hollister, etc. uniforms will be cheaper than regular clothing, unless you go to kmart, Walmart to buy your kids clothes which I doubt very much your daughter/son will not wear something from Kmart/Walmart. So before you start knock the uniform idea down, maybe you need to go to the school and see how the students are dressed, again it’s not a fashion show, kids should concentrating on their school work.

  3. I for one am very much for the dress code, our children should be focusing on school, not who has designer shoes, jeans etc. some of the girls look 20 instead of their appropriate age. One freshman you can see the cheeks of her A@@, while walking around the school, another had a curse word on her t-shirt, another had the marijuana plant on their shirt, should we go on??? Let’s get uniforms in our schools!!!

  4. If this was an idea that was suggested by the students and the parents, it might be a bit more palatable, While there may be “residents from various socioeconomic levels, from lower-income to the more affluent.” I was unaware that how students were dressing was such a big contributor to the daily atmosphere of the school and to the ability to learn that our state legislators needed to step in and tell us how to dress our kids! Shouldn’t they have more important things to spend their time on? I’m concerned out the potholes on every street in town, the lack of jobs in our local communities, the underfunded arts programs and the overall quality of education. If I wanted my kids in uniforms, I would send them to private school. I can think of no compelling argument for school uniforms at Woodland. Dress codes, even strict ones are fine, however, I feel instituting a a dress code, especially suggested by people who shouldn’t have a say in the matter, is crossing a line.

  5. Here we go full circle again and this time we have interference from our State Legislators who cannot stop taxing the lower & middle class. Yes this is another tax on the taxpaying parents of students in Region 16. Forcing families to purchase “uniform” clothing has been discussed and voted down multiple times. I failed to see the value of uniforms during previous discussions on this issue when I was on the Bd of ED, and fail to see today how forcing families to purchase additional clothing, which means having five days of such clothing, is cost effective to the struggling families Reps Conroy & Zupkus pretend to be protecting.

    This is just another example of our legislators in Hartford avoiding the hard issues of finding a solution to fixing our ailing roads & bridge infrastructure and easing property taxes in CT. They are driving business and people out of the state instead of working to make CT a destination for the same. I urge Reps Conroy and Zupkus to return to Hartford and work to find real solutions to the real problem: the state deficit. The citizens of CT need you to do better.