Survey seeks opinions on uniform policy

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REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education wants to hear from the public before making a decision on a school uniform policy.

The school board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week approved conducting a survey to garner public opinion on school uniforms and the current dress code.

“I think we represent the public, and I would like to know how the public feels,” school board Chair Donna Cullen said.

The survey was given to students at Long River Middle School and Woodland Regional High School before school got out this week. Surveys are available at the district office, 207 New Haven Road, Prospect, and each school for members of the public to fill out. Surveys can be filled out through July 10.

State representatives Theresa Conroy (D-105) and Lezlye Zupkus (R-89) suggested the region implement a school uniform program last month in a letter to school board Chair Donna Cullen and Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin.

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.

According to Waterbury Republican-American archives, the policy in Waterbury narrows options for shirts and bottoms to two colors — black and one more color varying by high school.

The suggestion of school uniforms has elicited responses from the public on both sides of the issue, according to school officials. Beacon Falls resident Paul Cummings, who has four children in the school district, is among those against school uniforms.

Cummings addressed the school board last week. He argued there is no objective evidence that uniforms help a school district. He said wearing a uniform or a nice suit doesn’t change a person’s behavior, attitudes, values or actions.

“Ineffective policies must not be dictated because of wants,” Cummings said. “Effective enforcement of existing policies should be the answer.”

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 that added some prohibited clothing. The revisions also added an emphasis on school staff to implement the dress code, set forth an appeal process for parents, and laid out escalating repercussions for violations.

As board members await the results of the survey, some members have already expressed their views on the matter.

Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella reiterated her opposition to uniforms, saying the region is a public school system.

Board member Christine Arnold said she’s against the idea, as well. She said uniforms would be more expensive for parents, and every parent she spoke to about uniforms was opposed to the idea. She added she was willing to just vote against uniforms last week.

Board member Nazih Noujaim said all the parents who spoke to him about the issue favored uniforms. He said he wants to hear what parents have to say on the survey.

“I think we need the survey to get the parents’ feedback,” Noujaim said.