In a non-scientific poll on the Times-Gazette web site, participants were deeply divided over the issue of Standardized School Attire (SSA), with just under half favoring the draft proposal now being circulated.
Here is how the results break down. There were 368 votes cast in the poll:
Based on the draft policy released for discussion purposes this month, do you favor Standardized School Attire for Bedford County Schools?
Yes, as written: 176 votes (47.8 percent)
Yes, but only if changes are made: 30 votes (8.2 percent)
No: 148 votes (40.2 percent)
Undecided: 14 votes (3.8 percent)
Any voluntary, self-selected poll is non-scientific, because there is no way to guarantee that the people who chose to participate in the poll represent a true cross-section of the public.
Last month, Bedford County Board of Education voted to distribute a draft SSA policy as a basis for discussion. The school board will solicit input from the community between now and February, which is when board members anticipate taking a final up-or-down vote on some form of SSA policy.
SSA is more than a traditional dress code but less than a uniform. The exact provisions vary from school system to school system, but common threads include no jeans or T-shirts. Shirts must be tucked in.
Supporters of SSA claim that it makes a noticeable difference in student attitude, helps minimize (but not eliminate) class differences among students and helps address security problems like gang colors or concealed weapons. They also claim that parents would be able to buy SSA-approved clothing more cheaply than the clothing some teens wear to school under the current system.
Opponents claim the benefits in student behavior and performance are anecdotal and haven't been backed up by scientific studies. They also claim that the policy unfairly takes away students' individuality and forces parents to buy their children a new wardrobe.
The draft policy being circulated here, which was heavily influenced by Metro Nashville's new policy, requires navy blue, black or khaki-colored pants, shorts, capri pants, skirts, skorts or jumpers.
Students would have to wear solid-colored shirts with collars -- which could include polo, button-down or turtleneck styles. White or navy blue shirts would be allowed anywhere in the school system, but each school would be able to designate additional colors, which would normally include that school's official school colors. The only variable which has been left blank in the draft policy is how many additional colors each school would be allowed. Nashville allows four additional colors per school.
No writing, logos or slogans could appear on the clothes, except for manufacturer logos (two inches square or smaller) or approved school names or logos.
Shirts would have to be worn tucked in and pants or skirts would have to be worn at the waist and belted if they have belt loops.
The comments which accompanied the poll represented a range of views, although substantially more opponents of SSA chose to leave a comment than supporters. Here are some excerpts from representative comments:
"A few teachers should be held to more appropriate attire before we place the whole problem on students."
"I feel like if the school system is going to pay for [clothing], then they can start telling the parents what the kids can wear."
"This is ridiculous! Kids should be able to be themselves, and clothes are a part of how they express themselves."
"Many people do not tuck in their shirts and still look appropriate because the do not want everybody to see their fat. God made people different and most people do not like other people seeing their fat hanging over their clothes. I do not understand why the shirt must be a solid color. Why not just a collared shirt? There is nothing wrong with stripes or checks or plaid. Schools only have one way into the building so there is not worry about being able to spot an outsider. If someone really wanted to get in they would alread know what color of shirt to wear anyway to not stand out from the crowd. You cannot tell me that having this type of dress will improve student grades. The only thing that will improve grades is studying and good teachers."
"There [are] more important things to worry about."
"Students would greatly benefit from standardized school attire. These young minds should be groomed to look like mature, young adults."
"If students actually perform better in their studies and personal behavior toward each other it's worth it."
"I think the pants are fine. But the kids should be able to wear what ever color they chose for a shirt. Yes polo shirts are fine, but why limit colors? Jobs do not limit you as to what color you can wear."
"Only if they have standard uniforms, not what they have proposed. Navy jumpers or pants with shirts as most schools that have a standard school dress code use."
"This should not be required in the summer. It would limit a lot of the children's favorite activities." The code as it's currently proposed would apply to children attending summer school -- but no one expects the rest of the children to dress for school all summer long. The policy would also not apply to things like athletic events after school hours.
"I'm glad that you asked parents and students for our opinion, because the Board of Education didn't care to." Actually, they did -- that's what's happening right now. The board is soliciting public input between now and February before making any final decision on SSA. Board members plan to attend PTO and civic club meetings and will hold their own monthly meetings at schools rather than the central office to facilitate public attendance.
"Please, as a mother of three, don't make them into clones. Some of this world's biggest discoveries, or novels, etc., would be snuffed out." This may be overstated -- it should probably be noted that quite a few well-known novelists attended private schools and grew up with a much stricter dress codes than that which would be required by SSA. That's not to say that SSA is good or bad, only that it doesn't seem to be a barrier to becoming a novelist. For some artists, their creativity was no doubt in reaction to whatever they considered restrictive about their school environment.
The school board members are Dixie Parker, District 1; Ron Adcock, District 2; Amy Martin, District 3; Diane Neeley, District 4; Barry Cooper, chairman, District 5; Mary Jo Johnson, District 6; Jerry Naron, District 7; Leonard Singleton, District 8; and Glen Forsee, District 9. The school system central offices can be reached at 684-3284 for more information.
The draft policy was published last month in the Times-Gazette and can also be downloaded from our web site by going to
News-related polls appear on our main page, http://www.t-g.com .