Thursday, February 26, 2009

Uniforms

The question of whether the new APP Programs will have school uniforms has proven one of the most contentious in other fora. This thread is for discussion of that issue. As readers of other blogs know, I have strong opinions on this issue that I will add to the discussion below.

138 comments:

Seattlehorn said...

I've been googling on the pros and cons of uniforms, and found this:

"The debate over uniforms is a diversion," says Loren Siegal of the ACLU. "Attractive, modern and safe school buildings, small class sizes, schools with well-stocked libraries, new computers and an array of elective courses like music, drama and art--those are the kinds of changes that would produce long-lasting and dramatic improvements in student deportment and achievement."

Personally I don't care for uniforms, but if they would help create unity in our new schools with their highly-diverse populations, I will support them. Note that socio-economic leveling is not only a benefit for students, but for teachers and parents. None of us are immune to stereotypes.

For example, there is research showing that teachers (of both genders) tend to encourage boys to "try harder" while girls are less challenged. This subconscious stereotyping might be mitigated somewhat by uniforms. I think that trumps "individual expression" through clothing.

Anonymous said...

I have been named to the interim Building Leadership Team for Thurgood Marshall. My understanding is that the Design Team will make recommendations to the interim BLT on such issues as dress code. Our first meeting is on Friday, March 6. I will try to keep up with this blog to hear what the community has to say. I can also be reached privately at elizsanders@yahoo.com.

Elizabeth Sanders

Andrew Siegel said...

Thanks for participating, Seattlehorn.

I think that you may have misunderstood the position of the ACLU officials you quote. If you look at the whole statement in context, the ACLU is expressing firm opposition to school uniforms and saying that advocates of such policies are trying to distract us from real solutions to our educational problems.

For those who want to see the context for themselves, take a look at the following link: http://eric.uoregon.edu/publications/policy_reports/dress_codes/fashionpolice.html)

Anonymous said...

A vote here for school uniforms.

I believe that people should be judged by the content of their character.

I stole that line actually ;-)
but I do believe it and I believe that everyone dressed equally helps that to come about.

Also, it is very easy to have a clothes swap program, for the less fortunate, at a school that has a set uniform. Just turn in last years and get a size larger. That is a big plus in a school like Thurgood Marshall where the diversity economically is going to be all over the spectrum.

Charles

Anonymous said...

I believe that people should be judged by the content of their character as well. That doesn't mean that I support the government or other parents telling me what to buy or my child what to wear.

Why can't a non-uniform school have a clothing swap?

dj

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't everyone in the whole United States wear a uniform? Men can wear blue and women can wear pink.

If kids aren't teased about their clothes, they'll be teased about their hair, or their eyes, or as someone mentioned in another posting, their water bottle.

What about coats and shoes? Won't both of those items be used to tell socio-economic status? Will we all have to buy the same shoes and coats too? What about backpacks and lunch boxes?

It doesn't take long for this to get crazy and where does it stop?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what's raising the ire of many is that this is about more than uniforms. Split the school and staff, throw in some crazy bus changes, add uniforms and slowly take away any school identity. I'm just waiting for the name change.

Anonymous said...

I was on the Monday tour at T.M. They have what appears to be a dress code that was very appropriate for school. It didn't look like a strict uniform at all. I think school dress codes/uniforms rock "for all mankind".

Anonymous said...

I do not object if the district deems it appropriate to impose uniforms on all elementary schools. But I see a real North/South divide on the uniform policy in the District. For APP-eligible families in the South and Central Cluster, we must choose between a uniform school or no Advanced Learning Program at all. We have very limited APP, ALO & Spectrum choices in our Central and South clusters, and they are all uniform schools. I believe uniforms are not a problem if all cohorts are given a choice of schools (uniform or no uniform), or if all elementary children wear uniforms. Sadly, in our district uniforms in public schools send a signal (right or wrong) that the school is somehow struggling, has lower test scores, or is underenrolled. Parents in our cluster have largely chosen not to enroll their children in the uniform Spectrum Programs such as Leschi. While there are many reasons for the disparity in Spectrum enrollment between the North and South, the presence of uniforms in the Central/South Spectrum (and now APP) schools sends a message to parents that the policy is in place to address some problem. Parents unfamiliar with the school, and deciding whether to pull their kids out of their non-uniform school will make judgments based on the very presence of uniforms. In our City, uniforms have symbolic weight and stereotypes are made about uniform schools. While I agree that uniforms are ultimately a diversion, I fear their very presence will cause new families considering APP to opt out, shying away from imposing yet another change in their child's life. On a personal level, I feel it is unfair that a public school district is singling out APP families to choose between uniform schools and APP (or any type of advanced learning program for families in the Central and South Clusters). Families of General Education students at least have more enrollment choices.

Anonymous said...

Re other Anonymous just above at 2:31 PM,

No, families of general education students have fewer school choices than APP parents do. They must find a school that's close enough to where they live to have a chance of being admitted. The school they want must have high academic standards plus have seats available after siblings.

Anyone who is lucky to have those viable choices just gets to add one more to that list, if their child qualified for APP.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of uniforms, but I don't hate them. There are pluses and minuses, and I'm trying to have an open mind about it now, thinking about the school, both programs, and how it might work.

Some thoughts:

I spoke with Greg King yesterday, and he has been telling TTM families that Lowell is NOT the kind of school where kids are caught up in stylish fashion and such. I don't get the feeling he is advocating strongly one way or another. Remember, he has one kid at Lowell this year, and a 5th grader in the building last year, so he is familiar with the building. And he's right - I would guess there's as little teasing (or even noticing!) of clothing as an indicator of social status or cliques as any elementary school in the district. It's just not that important to most of the kids.

Unlike many other potential areas of contention where compromise, or delay can be helpful, this is an issue where one program or the other is basically going to "win". Right away. There are either going to be uniforms, or there aren't going to be uniforms. If the uniforms at TTM were truly in place because the community supported them, then there are going to be winners and losers. I don't like that idea. Is there any way to mitigate that?

From what I've heard/read it seems there are some families that hate the idea of uniforms enough that it would affect their choice of school. At least I've heard some very strong opinions. On the other side, (and I could easily be wrong), it's hard to imagine someone hating the idea of NOT having uniforms enough to affect their choice of school. Is that enough reason to make the decision? The clock is so short that I doubt we'll get enough meaningful input from both communities to fully understand how it would affect both communities.

All this aside, my kid absolutely hates the idea of uniforms. Hates, hates, hates.

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous at 2:38

For some APP-eligible kids, adding APP to the list of choices makes their list go from zero to one. We tried the neighborhood school, we looked at private schools we couldn't afford, etc. Lowell was the only thing that would work.

That's not true of everyone in APP, I'm sure. But it's true of some. We don't *get* to choose between schools based on bus rides, on seats for siblings, on the fact that the building is a dump, etc. Those can't be considerations for us.

So when someone comes along and tries to add a problem to the pile, you can bet that people respond strongly---they've got nowhere to go.

For non-APP families I'm sure the calculation can come up with only one or two choices too, so APP is not alone in this. But trotting out the "privileged APP" theme doesn't help anyone solve anything---it's a recipe for APP taking it in the shorts over and over, because someone else is always more "deserving".

This is the same junk we've been dealing with for the past 6 months, where people throw other schools and program "under the bus" in order to advance their cause. Stop being divisive.

Anonymous said...

Please clarify your point by referencing where in my post I said APP was "privileged" or which remark of mine was divisive or threw you under a bus. I merely stated the obvious which is that having APP gives more school choice to the parents than general ed parents do.

Anonymous posts 2:31 and 3:21 have a victim mentality that I can not comprehend.

Consider the parents whose kids read and do math a couple grades ahead but the kid is a perfectionist and blows the test by a point or two. They try to get him in Spectrum but there's a waiting list ten miles long so their only option left is general ed program at the best school that they can find. Wherever he ends up is not the ideal academic placement for his needs. He would have had more choice with that qualifying APP score. Unfortunately that situation isn't unusual, we know people who endure rounds of private testing with a kid who would rather watch CSPAN and describe the latest stimulus plan before congress than play soccer.

Anonymous said...

Same Anonymous, different question. What happens to kids who come to school appropriately dressed but not in the school uniform, should I email this question to the BLT person or is there a policy I should know about. I'm wondering if it could become a non issue if we just all start ignoring it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 4:36, at the uniform schools, the supposed consquence for failure to come to school in a uniform is that your parents will be called to bring in a uniform.

When my daughter attended a uniform school, I don't recall hearing of this ever actually happening, but I also don't recall ever hearing that kids were coming to school in something other than the uniform.

dj

pjmanley said...

To anonymous, anonymous, anonymous, anonymous, and anonymous: How about identifying yourselves since we're all part of this community. How can we have meaningful engagement and exchange if we don't know who we're talking to? Sorry, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine in my native Seattle, the passive-aggressive capital of the universe, where so many are so polite in public, then trash each other on blogs.

As for uniforms, they are convenient and that is the only plus. They do not level anything socially. I grew up wearing them, and the idea that kids don't pay attention to each other clothes if they wear uniforms is utter nonsense. Shoes, purses, watches, earrings, make-up, jackets and backpacks firmly establish who's affluent and who isn't. So do the cars their parents drive, expensive haircuts, etc., etc, and etc. People always manage to find ways to express their style and class. And why shouldn't a public school respect freedom of expression anyways?

What mattered most in both the private and public schools I went to was how kids conducted themselves and respected one another. Uniforms have zip to do with character or judgments upon it. Expensive sneakers can't make a child any more or less athletic. That comes from the combination of talent and hard work. A strong, socially-conscious, responsive curriculum that keeps the kids busy and working together is the best social leveler there is. Nice clothes or uniforms don't make or break a kid.

Personally, I agree with much of the ACLU position, particularly that uniforms are a distraction. Research has shown that the effect of uniforms has been negligible if anything. Parents and teachers love them as much as Land's End and other companies looking to make a buck off public school families, because they make people feel good and make it seem like kids are unified within the schools. If you want to buy into that and judge the book by its cover, feel free.

My cynical side thinks uniforms are a great example of urban school districts doing something that looks good, but lacks substance and impact, while Rome continues to burn. What next: The Return of Coke Machines, or their banishment, to great fanfare and press coverage, while another 20% drop out each year. When can we start talking about those real problems and doing something about them, instead of consuming our time with side-tracking, solution-looking-for-a-problem issues? That's what I'd like to know.

pjmanley said...

One of my sources, besides personal experience, btw:

Uniforms in Public Schools: A Decade of Research and Debate [ILLUSTRATED] (Paperback)
by David L. Brunsma (Author)

agibean said...

pjmanley, I pretty much agree that uniforms don't do any of the great goods they're often said to do. However, having them, or not, isn't that big an issue for me. A relaxed generic color clothing that was considered a uniform worked out fine for my former middle schooler.

And, having just sent our 4th grader to bed in tears because she wanted to wear summer clothes to school tomorrow and we said "no", I'm ready to sign up for uniforms right now! Clothing is a bit of an issue here at times.

But a great equalizer? Nope. They're not going to bring down the school either, though, there's just so much more to a school that what kids wear.

Anonymous said...

what about Uniforms because families simply cannot afford school clothing for their kids and the school "gives away" the uniforms? I suspect that most of those families can't afford a home computer either and therefore cannot participate in this digital discussion/blog/dialog and therefore offer a perspective that is as simple as " I cannot buy clothing for my kids" " My school dresses my kids"....

Seattlehorn said...

"The debate over uniforms is a diversion," says Loren Siegal of the ACLU.

The debate. Is a diversion.

How about those of us Lowell parents who don't "need" uniforms (for cost or social leveling concerns) agree to not give a rat's arse about them. Time for some generosity here. They won't harm our kids, and they might help. Let's move on.

Ben said...

pjmanley: My cynical side thinks uniforms are a great example of urban school districts doing something that looks good, but lacks substance and impact, while Rome continues to burn.

You mean like splitting APP because that will create "diverse" schools?

Anonymous said...

My kids have actually worn uniforms, and it was a fabulous experience. The uniforms did help to 'even out' socio-economic differences. We were educators; the other parents were richer than Croesus; we were at an international school. I was grateful for how uniforms allowed us to avoid the discussions that my nieces have with their school friends about Prada vs. Juice vs. 7 jeans. (!!) (And uniforms are so easy! No debates about what to wear in the morning.)

Just for the record, my kids hated the idea of uniforms before they were actually made to wear them.

We are a current APP family and we are absolutely in favor of uniforms.

Finally, we will be deciding about whether to send a child to APP, and uniforms would NOT be a deal-breaker. I think it is unprofitable to speculate about whether this makes a difference for future families.

pjmanley said...

How many of the uniforms AREN'T made in off-shore factories by exploited workers, including children and indentured servants, with no labor laws, no wage and hour laws, deplorable working conditions, and by human rights crushing deplorable regimes?

Any uniform clothing that's made in the USA, that supports US workers and families? What would those cost?

Thus far expediency and convenience (and possible cheap costs) seem to be the chief arguments in favor of uniforms. But that's the same rationale that leads corporations to pollute streams and rivers, because its cheaper and easier. (And heck, they provide jobs!!)

Show me how uniforms can be implemented in a morally neutral and sustainable way, and I'll start listening. Then we can debate empirically, vs. anectodally, whether they have any actual effect on a child's educational performance.

Anonymous said...

My children will not be wearing uniforms, unless every single child in SPS is also required to wear a uniform. In the case of clothes that are in reasonable condition, we're indebted to the generosity of neighbors/colleagues who provide hand-me downs, with a rare (less than once a year) trip to goodwill if absolutely necessary. We have not had the luxury of buying new clothes for any member of the family for some time, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

What is the real concern that the current principal is trying to address? Gang colors? School clothes (business casual) vs. play clothes? Inappropriate dress (as defined by whom)? The children in the school are well aware of each other's socio-economic standing. Uniforms are not a leveler.

jason said...

I am completely opposed to uniforms in public schools. To those who say it's a non-issue, well not to me. It is very authoritarian. I am perfectly capable of deciding for myself how my family should dress.

Uniforms are just the latest crap the district is throwing at us - 8am start time, mixed PCP, maybe mixed academic classes, potentially a new school name. Yes, maybe some of these are more or less important, but when does it stop? What else is looming around the corner? How much do we have to give up?

We are not being told the reason for uniforms. If it is to hide poverty, will we all be expected to buy the same shoes, backpacks, coats, water bottles, give ourselves our own haircuts at home... It's just silly. Is it to make the kids coming in to Lowell more comfortable? The current Lowell principal told us that after the original closure proposal came out the Hawthorne kids were talking about the "smart kids" coming in. Maybe we should just cancel APP because it ruins other kids' self esteem and it would make them feel more comfortable if some kids weren't labeled "academically highly-gifted."

Yes, we want all the kids at both schools to feel comfortable at school, but that takes real work. Bandaids, like uniforms, ARE a distraction - just not the way other people seem to think. How about we don't have uniforms and we spend time talking about how to get all the general ed and APP kids the educations they deserve?

Seattlehorn said...

Exactly. My kids are not going to wear baseball or soccer uniforms this year either, because it is um, dystopian and authoritarian and militaristic, to name a few, and also, I checked the tags on last years' jerseys and damned if they weren't made in Eritrea.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL, FOLKS.

jason said...

Seattlehorn,

Could you please be MORE patronizing????? Obviously, you'll be happy to do whatever you're told, but I will not happily go along like a lemming.

There are only a handful of elementary schools in the district who wear uniforms. Do you understand that you signed your kids up for sports and that you made the DECISION to do that? We are not making this decision, we are being told. APP is only being offered at elementary schools that require us to wear uniforms (assuming the uniforms go through). We don't have a choice.

Seattlehorn said...

Jason, as I've said before, I don't care for uniforms, but I can see why some parents do, and I don't think it is worth fighting over. More important, it is counterproductive for APP parents to focus on this issue, because it just feeds the stereotype of us as elitist, insular jerks who don't care about "social leveling" because, hey, OUR kids are fine.

That negative stereotype of APP may be the primary motivation behind the split, and the biggest obstacle to a successful merger. Please don't feed the beast.

jason said...

Per Seattlehorn: "That negative stereotype of APP may be the primary motivation behind the split, and the biggest obstacle to a successful merger."

So, you want to allow SPS to make our kids look alike because you think this MAY be why we merged? I don't get it. Why don't we make up all sorts of other things and make allowances for that, too? Putting APP kids in uniforms is not going to take away our reputation for being elitist. The program is elitist by definition - only the top 2% are allowed in. Polyester-clad children is not social leveling.

If uniforms are so successful at creating this la-la land, it should be a district-wide policy.

I keep being reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut short story, Harrison Bergeron. Here is the first line: "The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal."

pjmanley said...

Baseball uniforms! Clever.

Plus that annoying little writing called the U.S. Constitution that protects freedom of speech, expression, and prohibits deprivation of liberty without due process of law. I know, I know, "get over it," right? That's like, so 1700s or something...

Anonymous said...

Just a note here: I swung by TTMinor a couple times at AM drop-off, and most of the kids didnt seem to be wearing anything I'd call a uniform. Hard to tell as they mostly had jackets on. I think the uniform there is khaki pants? I saw jeans, dresses, leggings, the usual. Lots of immigrant families who maybe dont find anything off-putting or odd about uniforms as I know they're often standard in other countries. I cant speak to TMarshall's situation. I think G King is open to our concerns about uniforms - if a policy re this is going to be in place, he has to address the true reason WHY and whether its more of a "recommended/unenforced" policy. TO those who are saying we shouldnt be concerned about uniforms - everyone has their own priorities and I dont think it's emblematic of the Lowell Way :) for some to tell others what their top concerns about this new school situation should be. If yr kid doesnt mind about uniforms, then maybe you dont either. I'd also go out on a limb and venture that if you have a girl in 2nd or 3rd grade or older, most likely she wont be thrilled. My daughter's not showy w/her clothes - she's sort of a tomboy and never wears dresses - but she likes to enjoy what she wears, and she DOES NOT want to wear the same thing every day. SHe's proud of her homemade T-shirts and such. THis would be a hot-button issue in ANY school. As many have said, to split the school populattion and teachers in half, move half to another location, change the principals, split the PTA membership and $ and likely affect the extras that buys, move the belltimes to 8 - 2, etc...well at that point, uniforms can become the straw that...y'know...(for the record ,I'm totally in favor of mixing the PCP classes!)

ArchStanton said...

I dislike uniforms, but could live with them if I had to. My daughter, on the other hand, will probably hate them. (Possibly I can sell her on the idea if I tell her it's like going to Hogwart's - that might last two weeks) For her it will be a freedom of self-expression issue.

She doesn't wear or care about brands or status, but does delight in choosing her own ensembles (even if her parents cringe) and many of her clothes have been designed and sewn by her and her mother/grandmother. If she were forced to wear the same boring outfit every day, I think it would be one of those things that would contribute to negative feelings about school. You can say she should/will get over it, but it is clearly an important part of her self-expression and it will sadden me to see it stifled.


Although I dislike them, uniforms alone are not a deal breaker for me.

I am more strongly opposed to the change in start time, but that alone is not a deal breaker either.

I opposed the split as it was proposed (I supported a better planned split), so the split alone was not a deal breaker.

With my "victim mentality", I am concerned that APP is the district's "whipping boy" that they can tinker with any time they get the itch. And it won't be limited to APP students once the different schools are merged.

I can't help but wonder how many more changes we are going to be told to accept before the cumulative result is a deal breaker.

dj said...

Anon 2:01, the current T.T. Minor uniform is khaki or navy pants/skirt/jumper, and white or navy shirt (although when my daughter was there, there was a lot of beige also going on). The Thurgood Marshall uniform (at least as it appeared in 2007 on the literature I read) was navy pants or skirt, white or navy collared shirt, or, for girls, a particular plaid jumper.

Anonymous said...

Well at TTM the unifroms dont appear to be an enforced policy per se, from my admittedly limited observations.

Meg said...

Uniforms don't seem terrible. I admit, I'm not crazy about the idea. But the sky will hardly fall, even though my kids like khakis and designated dress about as much as they love lutefisk with brussel sprouts, sauceed with dish soap. I don't really agree that uniforms will act as an equalizer, but I do see both sides of that.

Overall, I agree with what another commenter on the Save Seattle Schools blog said - a clear and decisive argument should be made for uniforms, or we shouldn't have them.

Anonymous said...

elizsanders:

Let's forget about uniforms. Nobody is talking about plaid skirts and sailor collars. What is being discussed is some sort of dress code or guidelines that would help the kids who ARE distracted by their perceived need to be in designer clothes, or midriff-baring tops, or other inappropriate school wear. Most APP kids dress appropriately and focus on their schoolwork now. Students who are less engaged by books than by social interactions often do well with guidelines for their dress. Would people be as opposed to guidelines that expect kids to come to school dressed to focus on school instead of showing off their clothing? How about if colors were not specified at all, and it was the general attitude of the clothing rather than the clothes themselves? Washington MS has a dress code, and Ms. Jones enforces it to such a degree that most of the kids are terrified of her. It is in your future...

I think there is a compromise that can work for everyone. I urge you all to keep an open mind...and to stop talking about UNIFORMS.

Andrew Siegel said...

We've received email updates telling us that the uniform issue has not yet been resolved, which is why we are talking about uniforms. Is it true that uniforms are off the table and that we are only talking about rules prohibiting inappropriate clothing? If so, that is good news.

Ben said...

What is the talk about a school name change? I assume this is about changing "Lowell" to something else? They would never change "Thurgood Marshall."

agibean said...

Ben,

My daughter just told me that the kids are abuzz with talk of a name change-it's a rumor, nothing more. How do I know? Because they're saying it's going to be renamed...EAST HIGH. For anyone not familiar with Disney, that would be the name of the school in High School Musical.

At the New School, there was a long, drawn-out proocess with specific forms and parents input required for a name change, which included why ot why not certain names could be used. This was district policy, it did not apply solely to the New School.

I believe the administration would not only have informed parents if a name change was possible, but would HAVE to involve them. I don't listen to rummors, though, so at this point, I am not concerned.

Anonymous said...

Re: name change

It's only speculation at this point, but please refer to page 8 of the final recommendations for closures. There is a section on "Building Names" that hints about the possibility of name changes. So, technically, parents have been informed.

agibean said...

I'm have trouble posting the link, but look here:
http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:OJStNtvaizMJ:www.seattleschools.org/area/policies/h/H10.01.pdf+building+names&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

It appears that I'm right-the district has a specific process for changing school names, and community input is REQUIRED.

ArchStanton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArchStanton said...

elizsanders:
Let's forget about uniforms. Nobody is talking about plaid skirts and sailor collars. What is being discussed is some sort of dress code or guidelines...I urge you all to keep an open mind...and to stop talking about UNIFORMS.

Up 'til now, all that we've heard on the issue from the powers that be is the word UNIFORMS. Frankly, we've heard precious little, so we're left to speculate amongst ourselves.

If they start using the words DRESS CODE, I think we'll all be a little more open minded.

I don't have any problem with a DRESS CODE - in fact, I would probably support it.

James W said...

I'm not at all surprised that the discussion "out here" might seem misguided or off-the-mark compared to what is actually being discussed on the design teams or other program teams. It's because we have very little insight as to what is really going on.

I'd suggest that if more bits of info were shared (as possible) to help people understand what the teams are focusing on, the discussion on this and other blogs might not be driven solely by rumor or speculation.

Surveys are great, ideas and options to discuss are great. Comments like "we don't think that issue is important," "people are overreacting," or "we're not discussing that yet" don't stop the speculation---because the cat is already out of the bag.

SPSmom said...

Right..to all of this - this is a forum for current or future APP parents who are worried about getting as much info as poss confirmed before 3/31 so we can make our own decisions re whether its best for our child/family to continue w/the APP schools, or move to some other school. After all the changes they've put APP thru in a few short months, we have v little confidence in what we do know, or hear about, etc. And all this to be recommended/decided by a handful of parents and administrators (Design Teams/BLT) - how can you really represent all points of view, a real challenge when we're talking about 2 v diff cultures at the get-go? Eliz Sanders - the title of this post/forum is UNIFORMS so that IS what we're discussing here. Re a Dress Code v Uniforms - I'd bet hardly anyone would have a problem with that - do any current Lowell parents really want their kids wearing belly-baring or other inappropriate clothes? I see none of that at Lowell. That type of dress code (incl no hats, baseball caps, etc) is in effect at our 2 local schools: JHay and Coe, and the kids/parents do adhere to it. I had assumed that code was in effect for ALL SPS elementaries - I havent started thinking about MS and beyond. Elizabeth, that's an excellent idea - I'm sure an (in)formal poll would have v few, if any , current parents opposed to a reasonable dress code. But the concept of requiring all the kids to wear some kind of standard Navy/khaki combo daily is what's rankling pple (among other things...) If thats truly off the table for TM and Lowell - TELL US! People will be relieved to hear that, i think.

Anonymous said...

The word that has been used in the communications that APP parents have received about the design teams has been "uniforms." Which has a very different connotation than "dress code." Even I am willing to compromise (although it is indeed for me compromise) on "dress code," if what is meant by that is the sort of no-midriffs, no-short-shorts, no-hats-in-class type dress codes that seem common these days. If that's all that is in play here, someone tell us, and everyone will I'm sure be happy to hear no more from me on the subject.

Although I note, crankily, that back in the Cretaceous period of the 1980s, baseball caps and half-shirts were in abundance at my public schools, and I don't think that cracking down on student clothing has seemed to improve either public school performance or people's perceptions of public schools. I am trying to keep a lid on it, however.

dj

SPSmom said...

Dress Code at John Hay (in Q.Anne):
John Hay does not have a uniform requirement. We do, however, recognize the importance of good grooming and cleanliness. Clothing that is disruptive, like shirts with inappropriate slogans or advertising, or items that are overly revealing, are not permitted and are unacceptable for school. Students should not wear 1) low-cut pants, 2) spaghetti straps, 3) baggy, saggy pants, 4) short shorts, crop and halter tops, 5) low-cut shirts. Students are expected to dress in a way that is safe and appropriate to the weather and expected activities. Students should wear a reasonable type of shoe. Shoes should be substantial enough to stay on the foot. Students should remember to wear appropriate clothes and shoes on their PE days. Sandals are not allowed on PE days. Except in special circumstances, students are expected to remove hats while indoors.

Anonymous said...

The letter from Greg King certainly doesn't suggest to me that what is on the table is a no-midriff-shirts policy. It also suggests to me that there will be uniforms. If the argument in his view is on the one side "MLK" and "international standards" and on the other side "girls will have to wear skirts, and don't worry, they won't," it's not difficult to discern what he thinks about the topic.

"Uniforms. We have heard from many members of the future Lowell community on this topic and have not yet reached a decision. We want our school to be one where all students feel equally valued and appreciated. It should be stated that T. T. Minor adopted uniforms for economic reasons and not because of any climactic/school culture issues with dress or because of violence and competition. Here is what we’ve heard about why people would like have a dress code: It shelters students from economic disparities; saves time in the morning; allows students who cannot afford many outfits to remain anonymous among their classmates; creates a culture of pride and identity within our new school community; saves families money; makes Lowell students part of a global community of students—from England to India—for whom uniforms are part of looking professional at school. Most importantly, a dress code acknowledges the basis in what we have in common. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I look forward to the day when a person is judged not by outward appearance but by content of their character.” A uniform is a powerful way for us to send the message that what is inside your head and inside your heart matter more than what you look like. We have also heard from community members who are not in favor of a dress code. The concerns include a gender-based dress code (i.e., skirts for girls) and the stifling of students’ creativity. We would like to reassure you that if a dress code is implemented, it will not require girls to wear skirts, and there will still be many opportunities for creative dress (i.e., school spirit days, weekends, etc.). Before we make any final recommendations, we are very interested in getting a broad picture about our school community’s feelings about dress codes at our school. Shortly we will send the link or provide a paper copy to complete a short survey about dress codes and after-school care needs. We look forward to hearing your thoughts! "

dj

Anonymous said...

Not only do uniforms (no, not a dress code) sound like a done deal, it sounds like there will be a VERY strict policy around them.

We need to be told what actions will happen if we chose not to participate in the uniform rules. Someone posted on another blog that since the uniforms are not a district-wide policy, there is very little to be done on a school level if you choose not to participate. I wonder if this is true...

agibean said...

For those who say they would refuse to send their kids to a uniform school without uniforms, not as a matter of cost, but as a protest, doesn't this say, "W're too good for your rules and don't need to follow them"? Isn't that somewhat counter to the Lowell Way?

I'm honestly not being snarky, but if the schools are to merge in ANY kind of welcoming manner, wouldn't it make sense to NOT project the attitude of "what's good for YOU isn't ok with ME so too bad"?

I know a lot of people fear a repeat of Madrona-I believe, strongly, that this attitude about uniforms is exactly one way Madrona could be repeated.

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling with the reasoning for uniforms -

We are a very frugal family and many of our children's clothes are bought secondhand. Not once have they been ridiculed. Uniforms will actually cost more for us.

Based on the outcry, I'd say uniforms will not bring unity, but only breed resentment. It seems to be a false remedy.

Ben said...

I'm not trying to be dense here. Uniforms (or strict dress codes) have been implemented (among other reasons) to take some pressure off low-income families. I don't understand. Even if the "uniform" is just blue pants and a white shirt, why are those clothes cheaper than any old pants and shirts? Is it that you don't need to buy as many pairs of pants and shirts? So you're always doing laundry so the "uniform" is clean?

Yes, I sound like a jerk. But I am asking this sincerely.

Anonymous said...

Many of us sent in emails objecting to uniforms, but you see from Mr. King's response last night which emails he appeared liked better.

I don't get why objecting to uniforms is saying we are "too good for rules." Don't we live in a democracy? The school district uses our tax money, and we have a right to object. I don't believe the Lowell Way is a mandate for us to shut our mouth and do as "they" say. Where is the "celebrating diversity" here? Why are we trying to hide differences between kids if we are trying to teach tolerance? Diversity means more than just skin color. It can also mean different heritages, different make-up of families, and even different household income.

hschinske said...

Objecting to uniforms before the policy is set is fine. It's sending your kid to school without a uniform *after* the policy has been set that might seem like saying you were "too good for rules."

I still say that I would rather hear from *parents* at TMarshall or TTMinor what they think about uniforms. If I heard from a whole bunch of parents there that the uniforms had been a godsend for them for various reasons, I would be cool with it. But I'm not trusting secondhand accounts from administrators at this point. That's not to say that Greg King himself doesn't seem like a perfectly good guy, because everything I hear about him says he is.

Helen Schinske

Andrew Siegel said...

Those of us who object to school uniforms (and would consider civil disobedience if they were adopted) aren't saying our kids are too good for uniforms; weare saying that all kids are too good uniforms. We are standing up for the principle that all kids in the district (not just those at some schools) have a right to self-expression, an interest in creative self-defintion, and an entitlement to the developmental benefit that comes from having to figure out everyday who you are and how you want to present yourself to the world.

dj said...

My feeling is that we don't just live in a democracy, we live in a democracy where you have certain fundamental rights, such as the right to self expression.

Frankly I do not care if many other parents are cool with uniforms. My sense is and has been that the reason uniforms are implemented in some public schools is that many parents actually quite prefer having their kids' wardrobes controlled by others. But my feeling is that what my kid looks like simply isn't an issue that I want submitted to the school, to other parents, or to the government.

agibean said...

DJ, didn't your child go to TT Minor when it was a uniform school? Did you refuse to send her in a uniform at that school too? Or has your position changed?

Uniforms at other schools came in because parents requested them, not "the government". The choice was FOR unniforms, wheras at NON-uniform schools, there was no specific choice AGAINST them. I have never heard of any school having them because the parents just threw their hands up and said, "YOU tell US what to do,"

I still believe that if uniforms are implemented at either TM or Lowell next year and parents refuse to follow that regulation, then it will automatically set parents against each other.

To the person above concerned about the cost-one word: Goodwill. Every year all year long you will find outgrown but still perfectly good uniform clothes for only a dollar or two per item, and Thurs-Sun. certain color tags are 50% off. Mondays that color goes down to $1.29. I know this because there was a time when that's the only place I could afford to shop. We didn't need uniforms but when she was little, my daughter wanted to wear uniform-like clothes like her sister did in middle school.

And to hschinske, bless you. I knew I wasn't the only one with this point of view.

Anonymous said...

Agibean's most recent post talks about the choice being for uniforms at schools with uniforms. I would be much happier if uniforms were really voted in with a majority of parents supporting them.

I have heard no talk about "majority rules" on this issue. Instead, it's a few parents in a closed room somewhere deciding for us.

JMT said...

So here is the recommendation from the Design Team for Marshall:

• Our recommendation is that Thurgood Marshall not be a uniform school next year. Reflecting our namesake’s belief in the importance of education in every student’s life, the team is making a recommendation regarding staff and student dress. The mission of any school is to provide the academic, social, and emotional support to students so that they become fully active and successful citizens in our society. As such, we recommend that all students dress in “work casual” clothing Monday through Thursday. This would include slacks, corduroys, cotton twill pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts of any color. All shirts need to have sleeves. We ask that jeans, sweat pants, and graphic tees not be part of student dress. Fridays will be Spirit Day. All students and staff are encouraged to wear their Thurgood Marshall School t-shirts and any bottom of their choice including jeans. The design team makes this recommendation as a reflection of Thurgood Marshall School’s educational mission. We ask that all stakeholders recognize this as a mutual compromise so that our focus can be on what is truly the important work of students and staff.

Anonymous said...

Agibean, you will have to cut and paste for me any post that I have made in which I have said that I would not send my child to school in a uniform. I have said quite consistently that I have very strong feelings about this issue but that the issue itself is relatively small in comparison with other school issues. There isn't a "gotcha" here.

And JMT -- as someone who has those aforementioned extremely strong feelings, while I am philosophically opposed to what you describe, I can live with it.

dj

James W said...

For me, the T. Marshall policy is reasonable and I can live with that. It's certainly more restrictive than what is currently in place at Lowell, but it doesn't say that my kid's favorite color is against the rules. That sends a great signal for how policies will be worked out at T. Marshall.

I really hope that Lowell follows suit. The relevant issues are the same at the two schools.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and JMT, I will be emailing the design team separately, but having just now read the emailed update, I am happy with the "school culture" and "community stakeholder" recommendations more broadly.

dj

pjmanley said...

So this is the compromise:

"This would include slacks, corduroys, cotton twill pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts of any color. All shirts need to have sleeves. We ask that jeans, sweat pants, and graphic tees not be part of student dress."

So proponents of this policy please answer my questions:

1. Where can I find pants for my son made of the materials above that will outlast the Value Village jeans he currently wears to school and gets green knees from the Lowell field from everyday?

2. How much more laundry time and soap costs will be incurred in cleaning the "business casual" clothes recommended?

3. With a no sleeves policy, that's about 20% more material per shirt, along with the additional costs, even in the spring when its hot outside?

4. So my son can wear a blank, long-sleeved T-Shirt, but not a shirt with a car or soccer ball on the front of it? Why?

5. No short sleeve shirts? Or are they suggesting no sleeveless shirts? Are polo style shirts okay, or not?

6. Nothing on this list makes any part our current clothing policy any cheaper or easier, so why again is it being done?

My son currently gets dressed in about 1 minute. Jeans from the bottom drawer and a clean shirt from the middle drawer. How is the above easier, cheaper, or better than what we do right now? Seriously.

Here's my idea: My kids wear whatever they want unless the school can show me where to get clothes of the same quality or better for the same price or less. If the school can do that, it makes sense. If they can't, it doesn't.

agibean said...

Dj,

My apologies if you are not one of the people saying you would not send your child to school without a uniform if Lowell adopts them. I thought you were. Someone on one of these blogs mentioned a child at TT Minor who wore a uniform. I thought it was you.

Pjmanley, Goodwill down on Dearborn (the main store) is much better than VV, and has a pretty good selection of plain pants for boys (they're on the rack next to my daughter's sizes, so I see them often). There's always a large number of khaki's, blacks and blues, and as I said earlier, for less than $5 certainly. The brand names range from Land's End to Gap to Nordstrom.

The sleeve policy is actually more directed at girls, who would sometimes wear those tank tops with spaghetti straps if allowed. Short sleeves are still sleeves, you don't need to worry about kids getting over heated in long sleeves in the warm weather. Girls will just need to avoid the tanks and spaghetti straps and go with one of the many varieties available with some level of sleeve in them. Trust me, it's a big problem in some schools, because ALL of the popular stores sell these tanks for next to nothing, and in dozens of colors. Girls like them.

My daughter has almost no tops without wording or designs on them. We'll need to do some shopping. But just today, for example, a flyer from Old Navy offered girl's plain tops in about 6 colors for $4 each. They'll trickle down to Goodwill by fall and I'll be set. Though of course, I'll buy some new things as well.

She will have a "school drawer" for bottoms and tops and since plain is plain is plain, everything will match unless she's going to wear purple and lime green or something, which she wouldn't. I see a FASTER dress time, at least for a girl known to go into diva mode.

Truly, though, I think the policy is a reasonable one, and it's clear that the design team worked long and hard to come up with recommendations across the board that will work towards a cstrong and ohesive community as much as possible. I hope that those tasked with implementing their ideas do as thorough as job.

agibean said...

Ack-sorry about the typing! New keyboard...DJ, I meant WOULD send your child WITHOUT in my first paragraph-again, if that wasn't you, I apologize.

Last paragraph somehow split the word "cohesive" ...sheesh.

TechyMom said...

So no sun-dresses? I don't see why straps are a problem. That said, this seems like a reasonable compromise.

pjmanley said...

I'm sorry: The Design Team worked long and hard? They adopted the same "dress code" that urban districts with gang problems have adopted across the country. Please don't presume creativity and effort where it isn't. They might have deliberated pro and con, but this is somebody else's ideas being imposed on our kids. Land's End probably wrote the policy.

I remain opposed to burdening myself or my kids with unnecessary and stigmatizing rules that the circumstances don't warrant. I.e., a solution where there isn't a problem.

Anyone who wants to engage in the pure sophistry and hair-splitting of arguing that the "dress code" isn't "uniforms" is being dishonest. What is it "Multiforms" then? I can't believe we're even discussing it.

I disagree that this is any sort of "compromise" in any way. It's one more insult to APP by those who are supposed to be its guardians.

esp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pjmanley said...

FYI: Here's what they do at Laurelhurst:

Dress Code

There is no formal dress code. School is the child’s place of business and pride in appearance has a direct bearing on school work and behavior.

Fiona Cohen said...

Even though my first-grader would regard it as an ordeal to wear any pants without a fully elastic waist, I'd prefer uniforms to the Thurgood Marshall compromise. To me that looks like more expense. Try going through the goodwill racks for boys' second hand pants and see how many you find.
And if Lowell goes the way of Thurgood Marshall, I see many early morning clothing battles in my future.

dj said...

Fiona, why would it be more expensive to get pants in whatever color you'd like than pants in one specific color? The former by definition should give you more options than the latter.

dj

Fiona Cohen said...

I think it would probably be easier to save money with a uniform, because it would be easier, period. Find one pair that fits the uniform code and meets the kid's absurdly exacting comfort standards, buy three more identical pants, and you're done. No morning battles, no worries when the favorite pair of pants springs a hole in the first six weeks.

ArchStanton said...

I have to say that I see the TM recommendations as falling somewhere between a dress code and a uniform policy and are more restrictive than I would like. I imagined a dress code would specify what clothing would be considered unacceptable (i.e. no bare belly buttons or short shorts) as opposed to listing a more restrictive list of what is acceptable.

Since my daughter usually wears dresses (as opposed to skirts) that are sleeveless (but not spaghetti strap) and stretchy knit pants or leggings (no one would claim she dresses unacceptably) I'm having trouble seeing how this doesn't amount to telling her what to wear (as opposed to telling her what not to wear).

Maybe it's a subtle distinction, but it's an important one to us. It's probably not a deal breaker, but we won't be happy about it if that's what is adopted.

pjmanley said...

Why are blue pants acceptable but blue jeans aren't? Find me any blue pants that wear better than denim. Seriously. This is a borrowed code that even Obama wouldn't support. He didn't suggest banning jeans, he said "pull them up."

Plain shirts are simple and at least make some sense if we're trying to avoid "Ritzy" labels. But corduroy pants or Khakis? Have you seen my son's knees after being on the Lowell playground? This is overkill times 2. Take away the prohibition on jeans and THAT sounds like a REAL compromise.

Are we really concerned about 5th graders wearing gangster wear or something? You can have a code that prohibits baggy jeans and requires them to be pulled up properly so they look appropriate for school vs. banning them outright.

agibean said...

pjmanley, you said "They adopted the same "dress code" that urban districts with gang problems have adopted across the country. "

Um. This is also close to the dress code in the public schools where I grew up, and far more accepting than any Catholic school I've ever seen. It pretty much boils down to anything but very casual play clothes, like leggings and sleeveless tops and dresses. There are no color restrictions, no requirement for girls to wear skirts only, and jeans are even allowed every Friday.

It's not unlike what I would wear to my office. The dress code is "business casual" and most businesses don't have jeans in their dress code. Jeans are the ultimate in casual.

There is NO reference to GANGS and I'm wondering why you feel the need to even mention them-yet you've done so twice. Are you afraid there's a gang problem at TM?

Since half the new combined cohort ALREADY HAS plain pants and plain tops, and likely the majority of Lowell kids have at least a few of these items (at least from what I've observed), I believe this option keeps expenses down for everyone.

Any body who feels this would be too expensive hasn't shopped for kids clothes lately or isn't paying attention. I was at Goodwill this morning (my Mondays-off foray) and I saw more than a dozen plain colored, boys pants in perfectly good condition. Again, you need to go to the main store to find these. The girls' selection was just as large, and I only looked at sizes 10-12.

PJ, I get that you're angry and upset about the split. But you seem determined to look at any attempts to make the school a cohesive body as a personal attack, and I think that in the long run, you'' find your predictions about it not working out coming true with this kind of attitude.

I'm not thrilled with all the changes either, but the design team has gotten countless emails about everything under the sun, and I think they're trying to make everyone as comfortable as possible. If you can't accept that, it doesn't mean that they just threw up their hands and did nothing useful.

none1111 said...

agibean said: "Uniforms at other schools came in because parents requested them, not "the government". The choice was FOR unniforms, wheras at NON-uniform schools, there was no specific choice AGAINST them. I have never heard of any school having them because the parents just threw their hands up and said, "YOU tell US what to do,"

anonymous later said: "I have heard no talk about "majority rules" on this issue. Instead, it's a few parents in a closed room somewhere deciding for us."

Regardless of what happened at OTHER schools, the situation at Lowell has come up WITHOUT being requested by the parents. It has come up because of a merger, and we have no idea what the overall feeling of the new parent body will be (although with a majority of the students coming from the existing APP/SpEd programs, it's pretty likely that the overall parent body would NOT be in favor of uniforms).

anonymous is right on target here. The decision appears to be NOT being made according to the desires or requests of the parents, but by a handful of people in closed-room meetings. That sucks. Unless a survey is taken, and the aggregate results are made public, then the entire building will be the victims of a closed-room discussion, regardless of which way the decision falls.

For us, the ThM plan, which is somewhere between uniforms-light and super-strict dress code would cost us more, in both dollars and (even worse!) time wasted on shopping. Right now we pass down clothing, which is all very basic, typical blue-jeans and such. These are not cost-free choices.

So far it appears that this is NOT going to be a decision coming from the parent body, but rather, a decision that will be rammed down our throats.

Oh, and the Obama comment about not banning jeans, just "pull them up" is great. Go ahead and prohibit the baggy crap, bare midriff and other no-nos, and I think people will go along with it.

none1111 said...

agibean also said: "The dress code is "business casual" and most businesses don't have jeans in their dress code. Jeans are the ultimate in casual."

Wow, that is so 80s. I haven't worked anywhere with that kind of dress code since the 70s. If you're not in sales, or otherwise meeting with the public regularly, or an executive, who cares if you wear jeans to work?! In fact, even some of the C-level executives I've dealt with in recent years mix up with jeans sometimes. This is Seattle, not New York.

In technical fields, people wear sweat pants, shorts, bare feet in sandals, no one cares. I even see the occasional no-shoes, but that's gross just out of sanitary concerns.

Casual isn't jeans, it's wearing sweat pants and tank tops. Which I wholeheartedly support putting on a banned list.

What we need is a short list of banned items, here's my 30 second suggestion: sweats, tank tops, baggy pants (maybe those super-baggy shirts too), baseball caps, offensive words or images on clothing. Probably a few more, but the point being that a succinct list of "DON'Ts" is a lot more reasonable than a list of "DOs".

SPSmom said...

I dont appreciate the recent Design Tm ltr fr Lowell , which seemed to be "selling" the idea of uniforms. I've heard that TTM got assigned uniforms a few yrs ago in conjunction w/the Sloan Foundation deal, and they were not thrilled at the time either (not sure if this is true). Now they're used to it, but do those parents even want to continue w/uniforms? Repeating my earlier post, and supporting the post above by none111, I agree that a list of "not acceptable" clothing is more reasonable and easier to manage for everyone. Its less like "them" telling us how to dress our kids, seems less authoritarian.IN any workplace, there are usually some kinds of unacceptable dress, whether its spelled out or not. Maybe w/kids,its reasonable to "spell it out". I honestly dont think anyone (even PJM!) would have a problem with the following kind of policy (v common in SPS, whereas uniforms or true dress code - NOT COMMON FOR SPS!) in fact might seem downright odd for some pple and could adversely affect potential new enrollment: Here's John Hay's policy:
Clothing that is disruptive, like shirts with inappropriate slogans or advertising, or items that are overly revealing, are not permitted and are unacceptable for school. Students should not wear 1) low-cut pants, 2) spaghetti straps, 3) baggy, saggy pants, 4) short shorts, crop and halter tops, 5) low-cut shirts. Students are expected to dress in a way that is safe and appropriate to the weather and expected activities. Students should wear a reasonable type of shoe. Shoes should be substantial enough to stay on the foot. Students should remember to wear appropriate clothes and shoes on their PE days. Sandals are not allowed on PE days. Except in special circumstances, students are expected to remove hats while indoors.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing. Perhaps I am misreading this, and I hesitate to say this for fear of finding out that I am indeed misreading, but the repeated language in the TM proposal above is "we recommend." Not, "it is required." Or, "if a student does not comply, X happens."

Because of that, this seems to me just that -- a recommendation. Not a directive backed with discipline.

dj

Ben said...

I don't like the whole idea of uniforms or even dress codes beyond "don't wear inappropriate stuff." I also don't understand why "business casual" is the standard for 7 year olds!

My son is a little boy, not an officeworker. Who cares how they dress at a law firm or publisher's or whatever?

pjmanley said...

Agibean: I mentioned gangs rhetorically, because in other jurisdictions, when push comes to shove over uniforms, that's the perennial reason schools give to legitimize the policies. Not academics. Not social cohesion. Not even social equalization. They need to show a compelling reason to legitimize such policies, and that's the default position they normally choose, in PUBLIC schools.

Let me be clear: No, I do not believe there is a gang issue around the Marshall unforms. Not at all, and I certainly haven't seen anything that would indicate that as a concern in any way. And that is what begs the question: Why DO they have a dress code at Marshall? That's what I'd like to know and what nobody is talking about.

When you search around for other examples of uniforms in Public School settings, the inevitable reasons put forth are safety, gang issues, etc. Way down the list will be school identity and cohesion.

Because I so strongly DO NOT believe Marshall has such problems that would require the remedy of a dress code, I am at a loss as to why it actually exists? What is the history and genesis of uniforms at Marshall? It's quite possible there are valid and specific reasons for the policy that haven't been shared with us. And I've been asking and asking, to no avail.

Don't be offended. The mention of gangs is purely rhetorical and even ridiculous (I think), but relevant to this discussion or any discussion concerning dress codes as that is, as I say, a perennial reason put forth by schools and supporters of them.

On the other hand, equally difficult for me to grasp, is how blue jeans vs. blue pants, as long as properly fitted and worn, do anything to HARM school cohesion?

Are people dead-set against blue jeans for some reason? What great evil do they serve? Why can't blue pants include blue jeans? How are they significantly different?

Seattlehorn said...

I don't see the value of this compromise, as it places burdens of complexity and cost without any of the benefits of uniforms (social leveling, ease, cost savings, school unity). What is the point?

Here are some stats to ponder:

Lowell 7.5% F/RL
Minor 86.7 F/RL
Marshall 86.3 F/RL

F/RL is available for those earning less than $30K a year for a family of four.

I don't like uniforms but if FR/L families think they will help their kids and their budget, I can honor that.

Let's hope the upcoming survey to Lowell and T.T. Minor parents is well-crafted so it measures not only preferences but reasons for them, as well as level of concern.

Here is an online debate on the subject: Should public school children wear uniforms?

agibean said...

PJ, I THINK, but am not sure, that the uniforms were instituted when principal Ben Wright was at the school several years ago. I'd need to go back and look at my notes from when I interviewed him.

His intention was to improve the outlook for students of color by changing the way schooling was done. With the approval of the parents, he instituted uniforms, separated core classes by sex and extended the school day and school year. I think they were in school until mid-July. At one point money was short and teachers volunteered their time to continue the program extention.

School performance rose, test scores went way up and it looked like his ideas were going to be successful.

He was hired away by a privately funded public school system back east back around the time John Stanford died. Since then they lost the funding for extra days and hours, ended the split sex classrooms, and have had musical principals. But they seem to have kept the uniforms. It's entirely likely the people you've asked aren't aware of the school's history.

The intent of the design team's recomendation, as I was told by a design team member just yesterday, is (to paraphrase) to have students dress as you would in the working world and have pride in yourself and appearance. At least, that is how I understood it.

The same questions about uniforms could be asked about private schools-why do some of THEM require them? I don't think the reasons here are all that different.

Perhaps you can get some more in-depth information on Thursday night at the Q & A session with the design team. In the end, I feel there are far more important issues at hand.

Capitol Hill Dad said...

In the Marshall school tour, I noticed quite a few kids out of uniform. While we were in the Library, of the 3 out of 10 kids that walked in, one had sweat pants, another in blue jeans, and a girl wearing a very colorful dress that is common among the East African immigrant women. In one other classroom with older kids, most were wearing navy pants, but most of them in the room had a jacket or hoodie on over their white shirts even though it was pretty warm in the room. I laughed when I saw that, it reminded me of the Catholic girls schools where the rebels would roll up the waists of their skirts to shorten the skirt length way above the knee.

The current principal mentioned that being out of uniform was not a punishable offense for the younger kids as it was the parents responsibility. However for the older kids, she does talk with them as they should know how to dress themselves according to the guidelines of the school.

Unfortunately, no one asked about the history of the school dress code and why it even exists, especially since you see so many kids/parents ignoring or getting around it.

pjmanley said...

Thanks for the insights Agibean, and I'll continue digging into it. These things don't come out of nowhere and knowing the reasons would certainly help.

I wince at the part about dressing like they would in the working world. Ouch! Can't we let our kids be kids for awhile longer? Of course that's a philosophical debate that encompasses globalization, etc., and could last into next year (or decade), so we don't need to go into it here.

All in all, I hope for a policy that reflects group identity and individuality in the most balanced way possible. Both are worth having and preserving, so it shouldn't be viewed as us wanting to impose upon TM or refuse to comply with them, as much as trying to find ways to preserve what we like about the Lowell atmosphere, while trying to make it harmonious with the new surroundings.

pjmanley said...

Seattlehorn: Stop stalking me! I need to find a new topic to hide out in.

dj said...

I don't quite get the "working world" argument. First, the working world varies wildly in terms of what dress is required, ranging from actual uniforms to no dress code of any kind.

But more importantly, my child is not part of the working world. She is a student. She is not paid. She is not professional (not that professional jobs all have dress codes now either). When I look at my university students, they certainly do not adhere to any sort of dress code -- unless the dress code would comprise "pretty much any item the Thurgood Marshall proposal says you cannot wear."

agibean said...

It all depends on the courses, and where, dj. Not to quibble, but my niece majored in business in college and had more than one class where they were xpected to dress in "business casual". Here in Seattle, at Franklin where my older child was in the "Finance Academy", the kids had at least one course where they were also expected to dress in business casual.

I see nothing wrong with asking kids to come to school dressed like they'll be doing something serious-learning-because really, isn't school their job? But as I said in another post, of all the things we're arguing about, clothing is pretty far down the list of important IMO.

Ben said...

The gang rationale seems crazy, I agree. But just today in the Times there was an article about gang influence at Madrona, which is just up the road. I realize that's a K-8, and not a K-5.

dj said...

It's not the general university experience. Without leaving Seattle, you can wander around several university campuses and see the exceedingly high population of students in jeans and sweats. Hats, even. My students are training to be lawyers, and they don't come to school in suits. They don't come to school in khakis. They come to school in what permits them to sit comfortably and take notes for hours every day, which is mostly jeans and faded logo t-shirts. And yet, magically, they manage to put on suits for their job interviews. The whole "dress appropriately for school" argument is, as I have kepts saying, an entirely circular one.

Kids don't need to be dressed "seriously" in order to do "serious learning." The only thing I see as at all relevant is comfort and functionality. You and I have very different ideas of what is "appropriate" for school. There is no necessary reason in my view why I should have to conform to your vision.

It is indeed a minor point, dress codes. But there seem to be strong enough feelings on both sides to support a pretty long thread.

Anonymous said...

I think the uniform discussion is a very important one, it's important to me and pretty much everyone else I talk to whose kids are going to have to move to TM. We're all rolling our eyes and some of us are livid that one more thing is changing and no one seems to want to give clear answers about what will happen until after the open enrollment period.

Sure there are more important things, but that doesn't lessen the relevance of a discussion about uniforms. It all adds up. I know of families at Lowell for whom it is so important that they will opt out of APP if uniforms are chosen as the dress code. We'll send our daughter to TM in a uniform but I'll hate it and so will she (especially if it is pair of navy pants). I agree with many here though, that the business casual approach is ridiculous for elementary kids. I'd almost rather have a uniform, and I would hate to have uniforms.

Seattlehorn said...

"Seattlehorn: Stop stalking me! I need to find a new topic to hide out in."

LOL. What about our mascots? Can we agree that hybrids (jackelopes, dragonpups, and all suchlike as described in Jack Prelutsky's Scranimals) while not recognized by science, would have equal protection under the 14th amendment?

Anonymous said...

Several people have spoken about how the uniform issue is "not important." I disagree. When I toured Lowell several years ago, one of my strongest memories is of a 9 or so year old girl and her outfit. She obviously had a "look." She had a skirt with non-matching tights and a non-matching shirt all topped off with a giant velour type hat that I associate with the '70s.

There's a girl there now in 5th grade who also has a very unique clothing style. From my experience in the SPS, this seems to be more true of Lowell than elsewhere. I think kids are more able to dress how they like because there is so little fashion teasing.

One reason (oh, there are many) I am opposed to uniforms is I think it squashes a lot of Lowell's spirit. I liked how it was a unique school for unique kids and we are already losing so much.

another mom said...

Dress codes should be simple. No sagging, bare midriffs, hotpants(my age is showing)or shirts with expletives,racial epithets, suggestive language or suggestive pictures. When a dress code dictates fabrics and sleeve lengths, it is too complicated. Thurgood Marshall's proposed dress code is too complicated! Children should be allowed to be children. That means wearing their Hello Kitty,Sea Hawks sweats, or other such outfits other than on a Friday. Common sense should dictate. If you want uniforms, have a vote of the parents or go to a private school. Furthermore, what is the consequence for a dress code violation and who enforces it?

agibean said...

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this-why uniforms or even a strict dress code strikes me as less than important in the grand scheme of things. And though I still stand by everything I’ve said so far, I should explain in more detail. Because, I was once a strong opponent of uniforms-even those of the more lax kind such as plain pants and sleeved shirts.

I too, didn’t want my kids’ self-expression squashed. I too thought that uniforms were too restrictive, an expense I didn’t need, and so on. While I never reached the level of feeling that the “government was dictating to me” I wouldn’t have been happy about any such restriction. And then one day I had my eyes opened.

I had volunteered to tell a story in my daughter’s class, and I decided to talk about a family tradition I grew up with in which my father bought each of “his girls” a special dress for each birthday. I wrote it out like a kids’ book and added illustrations, then proudly read it to the kids, tearing up because I missed my father, who had passed away some years before. The teacher asked the kids if they could guess why I was sad.

I don’t know what I expected-but whatever it was, wasn’t what I heard. Many of the children in the class were low-income, some were immigrant children; some didn’t have fathers. A couple of them met all three of those descriptors. A dozen hands went up.

One child guessed that I was sad because my father had been killed in “the war”. Another guessed I was sad because my father couldn’t afford “all those dresses”. Still another guessed that I was sad because there were so many kids (I was one of four girls) that my father couldn’t feed us all. And suddenly, those special dresses lost some of their luster. And as I geared up to buy my older daughter plain tops and pants for middle school, somehow I didn’t object anymore.

We’re arguing about something that in the end, REALLY doesn’t matter. With all the things we could get angry about and fight and leave a school over, I just can’t get worked up about this. There are kids right now at TM who would probably give the kinds of answers my daughter’s first grade class gave. There are kids for whom the very idea of plain versus tie-dye wouldn’t make sense.

I’m not saying we should give up our ideals because some families can’t afford a choice of clothes, but that what matters MORE is that all of the kids get a good education and that we do what we can to foster that. I don’t think fighting about uniforms does anything but drive wedges where they aren’t necessary.

pjmanley said...

Agibean:

If clothes really don't matter, then why are they so important to the proponents? Obviously they matter very much to some people, as this debate shows.

Its disingenuous to argue that they don't matter, but insist on having them or scolding others who hold opposing views for being divisive or unreasonable. Logically, you can't have it both ways.

pjmanley said...

There's a larger issue here: That conformity will teach our kids respect for others. In fact, it elevates group identity over that of the individual. Marshall is a school. Not a movement or ideology. Conformity is so contrary to all that APP stands for, I can't believe a dress-code is even considered, but here we are.

How many movies, novels, and fables have we seen, read and learned about the individual who is picked on and attacked for daring to be themselves and going against the grain of the larger group overly-fixated on conformity, as though its virtuous. Aren't we taught to champion the rebel who seeks to be free? As corny as it was, "Footlose" is one example that immediately comes to mind. In that case, kids weren't allowed to dance because it was "ungodly" and conjured up evil thoughts. With my kids, standardization and conformity cuts directly against the grain of who they are and what we want them to be. (BTW: Don't ever tell an Irish, red-headed father with two red-heads that he doesn't know what its like to be a minority. Oh yes I do.)

I also disdain the sentiment that we don't respect Marshall's rules. Marshall will be our school too. Acting as though we should tread lightly because we will be strangers in our own building is a lousy foundation upon which to build a new community.

What happened to the folks who said this would be a new beginning for both cohorts? Where'd they go?

And what about APP's future, from a marketing standpoint? That anyone balks at APP because of dress codes should ring alarm bells far and wide. The program needs growth to diversify. Should we do anything that might inhibit growth? Might people skip APP because of a dress code? It appears so, as individuality and self-expression is highly valued in this community. Would they skip APP because it doesn't have a dress code? Extremely doubtful.

The justifications for the policies remind me of the "just because" phase we all go through with our kids. "Why'd you do that? Because. What do you mean because? BECAUSE!! I want to know why? BE-CAUSE!!!

We should not lose sight of why this move is supposedly taking place. Each layer of prohibitions or restrictions on APP make it less desireable, which in turn impedes growth and undermines diversity efforts.

This is THURGOOD MARSHALL elementary. If anyone stood up against conformity and cut against the grain of societal mores, it was Thurgood Marshall. In his honor, we should be screaming "FREEDOM" from the rooftops, not stifling it in any way.

At a minimum, we should ask: What would Thurgood Marshall do in this case? Based on his opinions in mandatory flag salutation cases, I can assure you he would not support a dress code.

Seattlehorn said...

I liked your story, Agibean. It reminded me of "100 Dresses," the play (and book) about a poor immigrant girl who was teased mercilessly by her classmates for wearing the same thing every day. She found solace in drawing 100 beautiful dresses, but the psychological damage was real, all around. Many Lowell kids saw the play at Seattle Children's Theater last year.

dj said...

Funny, the take-home lesson to me from 100 Dresses was not that kids shouldn't wear dresses. It was that we should make sure that kids don't bully other kids. Which, last I checked, was central to Lowell's way of doing things.

agibean said...

PJ, I believe that in this case, there IS a degree of comformity being put into place exactly because we ARE going to be merging two groups. One way to help minimize the glaring differences between the two would be what I consider a pretty benign dress code.

They're not requiring that everyone dress exactly the same. Last time I checked there were many colors of plain pants available and dozens of plain colored shirts (or even prints without logos, if that's the interpretation). In fact, the TM kids will be able, if they wish, to dress much more individually than they do now.

Yes, TM will be "our" building, but we're going there, not the other way around. There are a lot of concerns and questions on both sides. I believe that the design team is well aware of this and is doing what it can to make the merge as smooth as possible. That includes, for example, suggesting dual PTA presidents, one from each cohort. It includes all-school get togethers outside of school time so that people can meet. It also includes a dress code.

I understand your point of view-I understand your concern about stiffling individuality. I was right there yelling about it some years ago. Until I wasn't anymore. I CAN have it both ways. Clothes aren't important enough for me to get worked up about, but neither is the dress code. I'll even be the first to donate towards a "dress code fund" if one is set up. But I won't fight it.

I CAN get worked up about kids getting along, and the academics being strong enough. I'll do what I can in those areas. If APP remains strong, if the kids are able to befriend one another despite being in two cohorts, I think parents will choose TM, dress code or not. At least, that's my hope.

pjmanley said...

As I said elsewhere, I don't believe we will have problems getting along with the Marshall community.

It's this patronizing need for layers of bureaucracy, rules, and facilitation of our every move to try to ensure the table will be completely and perfectly set so that nothing will go wrong that I fear will create the Faberge Egg of our undoing.

Unless any kid dresses obscenely, dangerously, or provacatively, why is it anyone else's business what they wear to school? If people are concerned about class judgments, materialistic values, or otherwise, isn't home the proper forum to teach that in? I don't want our teachers and staff feeling obligated to teach morals or values to my kids. That's my job. To the extent they can reinforce good group behaviors and mutual respect, that's enough of us to require of them besides teaching.

And why create rules that conflict with other important values like freedom of expression and personal liberty. That begs for disagreement and it should. These are fundamental rights.

Trying to "equalize" our kids is per se not embracing diversity. It's just the opposite.
And again, it directly undercuts our namesake's respect and advocacy for the rights and liberty of individuals. Do we want to put "WE DISSENT" under the planned exibit at TM?

Instead, how about harnessing the talent of some of the parents from both groups and designing some really cool shirts and sweatshirts that all the kids will want to wear, without making them mandatory. I'll donate time and money to THAT fund for sure! And wouldn't that be alot better than mandating drab "business casual" clothes? Bright colors go hand-in-hand with childhood. What kid would ever choose to wear a uniform or the proposed dress code clothes? No kid I know would.

How about trying to generate a little excitement that would inspire and bring out the best in people? That's what I'd like to start talking about instead of this drab subject.

Anonymous said...

Am I wrong that the quote from the Thurgood Marshall design team recommendations (included below for everyone's convenience) does NOT contain a requirement for children to wear bottoms or tops in specified colors? As I read this, my son can wear any color pants and shirt he wants, as long as he doesn't wear jeans, sweatpants, or graphics.

"we recommend that all students dress in “work casual” clothing Monday through Thursday. This would include slacks, corduroys, cotton twill pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts of any color. All shirts need to have sleeves. We ask that jeans, sweat pants, and graphic tees not be part of student dress."

dj said...

Anonymous, not only is that my read, my read is that even that dress code is suggested, rather than required or enforced. It repeatedly uses "we recommend," not "it is required" or something to that effect.

Anonymous said...

(Same Anonymous as 2:13 PM)

Thanks, dj. With all the hoopla here about drab and dark and blue and black and khaki, I thought it would be useful to revisit reality-based discourse.

Bring on the purple and lime green, tie-dye, stripes, polka dots, prints . . .

hschinske said...

I read all the "suggested" and "we recommend" as referring to the fact that the design team has no POWER to enforce the dress code, as the decision is ultimately up to the principal. But they sure did make their wishes known: "We ask that jeans ... not be part of student dress."

I finally got around to asking my own children, and they said this dress code makes no sense: jeans and T-shirts are as close to a uniform as it GETS for these kids. Why censor the most common and unremarkable clothing they could wear?

Helen Schinske

dj said...

Helen, you may well be right. Over the weekend in researching dress codes nationwide, it turned out to be not uncommon to have "suggested" dress or uniforms/dress codes with the ability of any family to opt out for any reason (or no reason). Certainly I am not on the design team and can't answer.

I was picking up my child today at Lowell and decided to watch the kids come out and see what percentage to my eye would meet the TM code. I was actually pretty surprised that maybe one child in ten was wearing clothing that would suit the proposed code. Almost all of the kids who wouldn't meet it wouldn't meet it because they were wearing jeans or track pants/sweat pants; the other kids who wouldn't meet it were wearing graphic t-shirts or dresses. I guess I assumed solid-colored pants were more common than they are.

And 2:13/2:47 anonymous, I think you're seeing that discussion in here for two reason -- one, part of the discussion occurred before the recommendation came out, and two, there are some folks in here who are indeed advocating, post-recommendation, for the navy-and-white type uniforms that T.T. Minor and T. Marshall currently employ.

agibean said...

I do think of "slacks", "twill" and cords as plain colored, and I don't think I've ever seen any cords in lime green or purple-but it does appear that if those exist, they'd be ok. As for tops-it also seems as though prints would work. It kind of boils down to no sleevelss tops, no jeans, no logos, no sweats.

I suppose tomorrow's Q & A will give us some more guidance, since I expect this topic to be one of the hottest topics.

Anonymous said...

And to state the obvious: we are still waiting to hear from the Lowell design team re their recommendations/stance on the uniform issue. It seemed from the communication we last received that G King is leaning towards uniforms or something in that vein. Why has the TM team been able to resolve this issue, at least in terms of a recommendation that they must view as a nice compromise to both populations, while the Lowell group has still not been able to develop a recommendation? They need to put this to rest, it seems to me that allocating space, dealing w/scheduling, etc will be way more time-consuming so I feel like they need to get this out of the way so we can stop obsessing over it. Are they applying a survey or something? This is one issue that needs to be confirmed prior to 3/31.

Anonymous said...

My feeling is that Mr King would like a more strict uniform code than TMarshall. We have been hearing the schools will be the same, but I would not be at all surprised to hear that Lowell will be having a much more strict code. I think they want to limit it to fewer choices than what Marshall will have (I am hearing just two color choices for pants, for instance). This is just what I have been hearing and it makes sense after reading Mr King's memo to us.

Anonymous said...

If uniforms will be enforced, I will be "opting-out." According to this article, "School Uniforms: The Raging Debate", by Darlene Williams, making public education conditional on uniforms is not legal.

http://www.gate.net/~rwms/UniformDWilliams.html

pjmanley said...

That article nails it Anonymous. Although I don't want to threaten opting out to get the point across. And I don't want to be too critical of the design team either, as I know they have a big task to tackle, and they're trying to find the middle ground. I worry less about what harm it might cause, versus what good it would do, and whether it doesn't distract us from more meaningful and truly educational experiences.

Again, with a likely opt-out policy, why not come up with some really cool shirt & sweatshirt styles both groups will be happy to wear. My kids love their Lowell sweatshirts, and I'm sure they'd love a nice Marshall sweatshirt just as much, and for all intents and purposes of seeing common colors in the hallways, it would be "problem solved."

Call me nuts, but I much prefer incentives and positive reinforcement techniques versus mandates and discipline for non-conformists.

SPSmom said...

I agree...whether we "opt out" or not, we (the kid and I) would be deeply disappointed in a strict dress code at Lowell (A loose code that prohibits inappropriate clothing - eg croptops - hasnt been necessary til now at Lowell, but should they think it IS necessary due to the merger, I dont think anyone has issue with that). This , in my mind, goes against everything that we love about Lowell. Freedom of self-expression and creativity are encouraged: a strict dress code stifles at least one aspect of that. If uniforms were pretty common around Seattle, that would make more sense, but as several here have pointed out, there are only a v few SPS schools that have uniforms or strict dress codes in place, and they are generally troubled schools. Perhaps in these schools, kids need the uniforms for a variety of reasons previously stated - do we want to "brand" Lowell in this way? I bring up the concept of "branding" because I've heard concern keeping enrollment #'s sufficiently high (to bldg capacity). And when potential parents visit a school (APP or otherwise), they are looking at all the aspects to decide if its right for their family. I do think uniforms will seem odd to most SPS parents looking for a quality school. GKing can spin it anyway he wants, but uniforms at SPS schools do not project the image of a high-quality, in-demand educational program. I agree that overseas, or in Catholic or other private schools, this is not the case. But it is the reality here.

Anonymous said...

SPSmom got this right. In Seattle, without any doubt, uniforms project the image of a lower performing, lower quality school. That ain't gonna change.

If this were to go through, imagine the prospective APP parents coming to visit Lowell/TM next year. They're not going to have a good impression, and as such, it would not be good for enrollment, especially when everyone is (or should be) trying to figure out how to make these schools desirable!

Anonymous said...

Not only are we more likely to opt out if a strict uniform policy is put in place; we are more likely to encourage other parents with newly APP qualified children to opt out as well. We simply can't, in good conscience, recommend choosing a program that is continually threatened by school district whims. We are quite weary of the opaque vision for the APP program and the many changes we are being asked to cope with. There seems to be no end in sight. Enough.

Anonymous said...

If you read the article, I believe Anonymous means parents have a legal right to "opt-out" of the uniforms (just like you can get a waiver on vaccinations), not "opting-out" of the entire program.

If uniforms were imposed, parents must have the choice to file an "opt-out" form and not have to follow the dress code as a condition of receiving an education. According to the courts, a dress code can still be considered a "uniform."

Anonymous said...

I attended today's tour at Lowell.
According to Julie Breidenbach, Lowell will not be a uniform school next year--there will be no change to whatever dress code exists there now.
BL

QAmom said...

BL - can you plz expand on that - when did Julie say that? I attended todays tour and didn't hear any discussion re uniforms. In fact, I was struck by the extent of "we dont know that yet" answers -- if I was a completely new prospective Lowell parent (we've been there 1 year), I would've been concerned about the lack of confirmed answers re projected enrollment #'s in APP v GenEd; target # kids per classrm; # classes in each program; PCP time; etc. I was surprised that uniforms didnt come up, and i didnt bring it up because I know this hasnt been confirmed yet by Mr. King. I was also disappointed that GK didnt attend. Did Julie make the uniforms comment separately w/you after her general presentation?

Anonymous said...

Julie was responding to a question at the group Q/A session after the tour and suggested that Lowell would probably not have uniforms.

Anonymous said...

I just got home from tonight's PTA meeting and Greg and Julie answered questions. The question of uniforms at Lowell is undecided. It is not true that Lowell with not have uniforms - it is still unknown.

JR said...

Yes, its currently undecided, they're sending out a survey to current Lowell and TTM parents on this. Its clear that the Design Team, esp GK, is leaning towards uniforms. However we also learned that a significant majority of enrolled children next yr is projected to NOT come fr TTM: the majority will be either current or new APP enrollees; and quite a bit of the GenEd program expected to incl not just TTM, but also current APP siblings and neighborhood reference kids who do not currently attend TTM. So really, who are these uniforms for? Is it to satisfy the maybe 30% of incoming population that has them now - and what percent of those parents/kids are so desirous of continuing this policy? Its apparently a relatively new policy that was not welcome at 1st at TTM either. Its such a contentious issue (the most postings on any issue on this blog anyways) - why cant they put this to rest like TTM team has? If I were a new prospective parent at Lowell, APP or GenEd, and found out after enrolling that uniforms were required, I'd be pretty incensed - that is a MAJOR cultural issue and needs to be specified by now one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

whatev... if you all put 1/2 this concern & energy into academics we might get a good school out of this

Anonymous said...

Okay anon at 3/6 12:25am, I'll bite. We who are concerned about putting our kids in uniforms have heard your argument that we should really be putting our "concern and energy into academics." What exactly are YOU doing to improve academics in APP? Parents have zero control over that. All of our younger kids are using Everyday Math, a universally panned program. What are you doing to get that changed? CMP for older kids isn't liked much better. I already spend a ton of time volunteering at Lowell in my kid's classroom and in various other ways. None of that has any affect on curriculum.

The uniform debate, which is important to me, is about the only area that parent input is being requested (we have yet to see if it's followed). Design Teams have no say about what happens in the classroom. I would love to hear about how you are putting your energy into academics.

Anonymous said...

A mandatory uniform/dress code without a parental "opt-out" can be challenged by a lawsuit. Is this where the district really wants to go? The uniform needs to be voluntary. But if it's voluntary and many parents choose to not follow the uniform, then you see where this is going...

To whatev - if this issue can't be resolved, what hope do we have for the academics? This is a legal issue and goes beyond wants.

pjmanley said...

Perhaps a little wisdom from our elders can shed a little light on why this is an important issue to some of us, and why, personally, I'd like to aim higher than "conformity for the common good."

Here's some language from the Supreme Court that tickles my brain cells away from uniforms, dress codes, and such:

As governmental pressure toward unity becomes greater, so strife becomes more bitter as to whose unity it shall be. Probably no deeper division of our people could proceed from any provocation than from finding it necessary to choose what doctrine and whose program public educational officials shall compel youth to unite in embracing. Ultimate futility of such attempts to compel coherence is the lesson of every such effort from the Roman drive to stamp out Christianity as a disturber of its pagan unity, the Inquisition, as a means to religious and dynastic unity, the Siberian exiles as a means to Russian unity, down to the fast failing efforts of our present totalitarian enemies. Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

ArchStanton said...

whatev... if you all put 1/2 this concern & energy into academics we might get a good school out of this

Count me as a parent that does put energy and effort into more than the uniform issue. I volunteer my time, donate to the school, and attend more meetings than I would like - because I care about the what the schools are going to be like after this process is done.

Unfortunately, the design teams (and the parents by extension) have little influence/involvement over the actual curriculum/academics. A lot of decisions get made without any input from the community (or with the pretense of soliciting input). The design teams are asking for input on this, so it seems that it may be one area where our concerns (pro or con) may actually have influence, so I think that's one reason there's a lot of discussion.

Seattlehorn said...

Great stuff, Manley. Perhaps I'm too much the cynic. Last night, Greg King said he will survey both TTMinor and Lowell parents about uniforms, but he could not promise that a decision would be made on this topic before end of open enrollment. Why? Yes, it takes time to survey, but could there be another reason to draw out this debate? Without clarity on the issue, we may lose some families (both pro and con) for whom it is a deal-breaker. Aha. Perhaps that is the intent, if one thinks that the success of the merger depends on parents for whom uniforms is not a wedge issue. Very cynical, I know. But if I were Greg King trying to roll this ball up the hill, I might be thinking "adieu to yieu and yieu and yieu" to those threatening to move to Canada.

I do not think there will be uniforms, and if there are, students will be able to opt out for religious or other reasons. If I'm wrong, I'll buy you lunch, Manley.

Anonymous said...

I looked into the legal side of things briefly. While the Darlene Williams article cited above argues for requiring an opt-out provision, that is not the controlling law in the 9th Circuit. With a clear exception for religious expression (protected more strongly under the Constitution), the 9th Circuit has recently upheld a mandatory public school uniform policy in Nevada, applying a medium scrutiny rather than strict scrutiny. See Jacobs v. Clark County School Dist. (2008). The Jacobs ruling would govern the legality of the uniform policies in Seattle. Provided there are religious exceptions, madatory public school uniform policies are enforceable, even without an opt out provision for parents who don't want their kids to wear uniforms.

Anonymous said...

What Would Marshall Think?
In this uniform discussion, I can't help but think what would Thurgood Marshall, a strong proponent of individual rights, think about all this? I can't help but think he'd support the free expression camp, at least from a philosophical standpoint. Here's a quote from Marshall's concurrence in Procunier v. Martinez, a case involving a prisoner's right to be free from censorship: "The 1st Amendment serves not only the needs of the polity, but also those of the human spirit, a spirit that demands self-expression. Such expression is an integral part of the develpment of ideas and a sense of identity. To suppress expression is to reject the basic human desire for recognition and affront the individual's worth and dignity. Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974, Marshall, concurring)

pjmanley said...

Not to bore everyone with legalese, but the facts of the Jacobs case differed alot from what's going on here. I wouldn't call it "controlling authority" in this case, although it's true they upheld a dress code in our circuit. The plaintiff's challenged its constitutionality without ever challenging the district's evidence and conclusions that dress codes are the silver bullet for bad schools. (Big mistake IMHO that wouldn't be made again.)

I wouldn't venture a guess which side of the line our particular issue would land on, and I'm not very interested in finding out. I'd rather continue the thoughtful and reasoned comments in this thread, as I think we are uncovering some really important stuff about who we are, what matters to us, and what is best for our kids.

I strongly believe Marshall would oppose uniforms because he cared so much about and stressed individual rights and liberties. But he also wrote alot of dissenting opinions, so it's hard to say whether his views would have prevailed or not.

SPSmom said...

Hopefully everyone who has a strong opinion has emailed GK and the Design Team members. If not, then unless they do get that supposed survey together, they are going to go with their guts on this, and currently they are in fact leaning towards some kind of uniform. If they do go by survey results (and its hard to understand whats holding up that process - not too many options beyond Yes, No, Depends on the Uniform, or I Dont Care) those results will skew by who feels passionate enough to respond. So plz everyone - get yr feedback on this out there, to Greg directly and the others. Discussing "Opting out" and the philosophies of uniforms are all fine ways to pass the time, but ultimately they wont affect results as much as simple email to the 6 or so pple who are ultimately determining this issue. ALSO - plz encourage yr fellow parents to take action as well. My take is that GK means well, but he's trying to balance every angle and please everyone - not going to happen - instead he/we'll get mired in inaction. I'd really like to see an email like Julie B's fr the Lowell team: specific direction, action, and plans in the works. OK, maybe I should post this under "Design Team Advice" but I am most def opposed to uniforms and I'm encouraging everyone to let GK know how you feel about this topic. I believe he listens and reads his email. THANKS!

ArchStanton said...

This just in. From a letter from G. King:

Uniform. It is our understanding that, particularly in the matter of uniforms/dress codes, the district would like T. Marshall and Lowell to mirror each other, much the same as the APP program at both sites will mirror each other. In light of the Design Team Recommendations from the T. Marshall team made earlier this week, we need to consult with the district for guidance on the charge to be aligned. Should the district indicate that we may chose differently in regards to uniforms/dress codes, our recommendation is to wait to make a final decision until we have had an opportunity to all be under one roof and have had meaningful dialogue on this topic.

If the district wants the schools to be carbon copies, I hope that Lowell will not abdicate on uniforms to Marshall, simply because they got their plan first.

If they need to be "aligned", Lowell and Marshall should come together to decide the uniform issue, instead of one school deciding for the other.

It also begs the question: If the schools must be nearly identical, why are there two design teams and not one?

Anonymous said...

Not sure exactly what this means. I read it as follows:
1 - If District feels there needs to be "alignment" on the dress code issue (and why the District would decide that, Im not entirely sure) - then Lowell gets same Dress Code (no uniforms) as TM
2 - If District doesnt see a need for alignment on this issue, then no change to current Lowell policy re dress code (ie there is none) will be made until we get underway w/2009 school yr.
Is that how the rest of you interpret this? Fr speaking w/pple involved in the Lowell/TTM merger, I'm getting the impression that they're not expecting most of the TTM kids to transfer to Lowell - or at least not all of them, for various reasons both practical (its far for some of them) and cultural. To me, odder than having a dress code or uniforms at all, would be to institute such a policy when you've got a balance of say 100 - 150 TTM kids (used to uniforms) and about 250+ APP/SpEd kids (not used to uniforms). I know this isnt a democracy, but I get the sense that's why they're waiting, and I think its a good thing. Fr the rest of the ltr, which lays out specific classrm expectations by grade, we see only 3 4th and 5th gr classrooms expected total. THis yr we had 5 3rd gr APP classes w/25 -26 kids each. Im not getting the math on this one, unless enrollment is light (for GenEd AND APP 4th gr) or large classes planned.

Also, I agree w/ArchStanton : wouldnt they need then to have "alignment" on all cultural merging issues, thus having one Design Team?

Ben said...

They're not expecting most of the Minor kids to go to Lowell? Huh? Where are they going instead?

SPSmom said...

OK, I guess this is kind of off-topic, and this may be pure speculation at this point (not my speculation - just what I've heard fr more involved folks)as Open ENrollment not even halfway thru yet. But apparently, many may choose Madrona or Leschi, where they may have friends; note also that MLK (on 23rd in the CD) closed and merged w/TTM jsut a couple yrs ago; and the TTM ref area draws fr the CD, so lots of TTM maybe are, or just feel, closer to those schools. Transportation is an issue too, tho I'm not sure I understand why they wouldnt get bussing? They're certainly not expecting many 3rd - 4th graders if they're only planning for 3 classes for each of those grades (per GK's latest letter). Actually, I'd like a better handle on the projected enrollment #'s, by grade and by program (GenEd + APP) - I've seen #'s for TM but not Lowell, anyone have this info?

another mom said...

"Actually, I'd like a better handle on the projected enrollment #'s, by grade and by program (GenEd + APP) - I've seen #'s for TM but not Lowell, anyone have this info?"

I don't know how projections re: APP enrollment #'s can be made unless parent surveys have been done. How they can go out on a limb for TM is beyond me. It would be difficult to do this based on projections from previous years, as the program was in one location. I think that the real answer is they do not know and won't know until open enrollment ends and assignments are done. The so-called demographers somehow balancing this is a bunch of hooey. And it is not possible to gauge how many newly eligible APP famlies will choose the new program. Until this is a proven model,it is sheer guesswork to predict the numbers.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the old data posted on Seattle Schools "New Student Assignment Plan" site, you'll find school by school enrollment - it tallies assigned reference area schools for students attending a particular school. If you look at Leschi, for example, you'll see that a fair number of students attending are from the TT Minor or Thurgood Marshall reference areas. There are also students in the Leschi reference area attending TTM and TM (who may enroll at Leschi next year, rather than Lowell). Likewise, if you look at TT Minor and Thurgood Marshall, a low percentage of students attending actually live in the TTM or TM reference area.

Seems like such a guessing game at this point - and once again begs the question - why all this forced movement prior to the the new assignment plan? How convenient that MGJ's review comes prior to the end of the enrollment period.

gavroche said...

Speaking of MGJ's review, that comes up this Weds. March 11 7-8 p.m. in a meeting that's probably closed to the public. The public IS invited to the 4-7 p.m. Strategic Plan meeting beforehand, though, if anyone wants to offer their own Superintendent Evaluation then. The last time the Board reviewed the Superintendent (July 2008), they voted unanimously to give her a 10 percent pay increase--on top of her considerable $240,000 salary. (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/370241_schools10.html and http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008043020_webpayraise09m.html) At $264,000 per year, she earns more than the mayor--$150,000--or the governor--$166,000. They also extended her contract a year, and she gets $20,000 per year in retirement benefits and a $700 per month car allowance--all without public input. After slashing our school resources, closing schools, splitting APP into pieces and telling our kids to deal with it all in the name of a fiscal crisis, it would be highly hypocritical and politically risky of the Board to give the Superintendent YET ANOTHER pay raise right now, don't you think? Maybe we should write to our Board members and share our feelings on MGJ's job performance before their closed-door session on Wednesday.

hschinske said...

It would be particularly hypocritical to give her a pay raise when the economy provides the perfect excuse for *not* giving her one. I don't care if she's an angel straight from God, she shouldn't get a pay raise this year. The board need not even embarrass themselves in the slightest. THIS SHOULD BE A COMPLETE NO-BRAINER.

Helen Schinske