Board nixes push for school uniforms
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:20 AM
MARYSVILLE An attempt to try a new dress code at Marysville Junior High School next year has been effectively vetoed by objections from members of the Tulalip Tribes. They want to see any dress code instituted across the board at all middle schools.
Next year the State Avenue campus will be rechristened Totem Middle School in honor of the beautiful cedar pole carved by Tulalip Indian Kelly Moses with students during a year-long project. On March 26 parents and staff presented the Marysville School Board with examples of a new dress code that they say would be cheaper for parents and increase academic success for students.
Safety would also be enhanced as non-students would be easy to recognize, a big deal on the downtown campus open to four sides on a busy main drag. Totem will have three smaller schools called Bear, Raven and Owl and students would have three colors of polo shirts to choose from, worn over khaki slacks.
School principal Judy Albertson introduced the plan, called specific dress and had a committee of parents sell the idea to the board at their March 26 workshop. To a person the five-member committee enthused over the plan, saying it helped reduce the gap between rich and poor students and would save money for parents and kids pressured to buy expensive, name-brand clothes to impress their peers. The committee visited a San Diego school that had adopted the dress code and realized positive benefits to the learning and social environments.
That got our attention, Albertson said. Its not new to Marysville Junior High School.
The group of parents and staff also visited two middle schools in the Bethel School District. Cedarcrest Junior High School in Spanaway adopted a similar code and eliminated a common bane of many educators: revealing outfits, sagging and baggy pants, inappropriate messages printed on T-shirts, and low cut tops threatening to meet short skirts somewhere near girls mid-riffs.
Sometimes attire can be distracting, said parent Karri Hansen, who cited overwhelming staff support for the change at Cedarcrest Junior High.
She said research shows that dress codes help students self esteem and academic progress and creates a level playing field. According to her we often read a person based on their clothes, car and superficial factors, and even the best teachers might have problems giving every student a fair chance when some come to school wearing Goth attire, for example.
With the dress code they didnt have any pre-conceived notions, Hansen said. They saw the child first.
She expected a stern atmosphere reminiscent of a parochial school.
It wasnt like that at all, Hansen told the board, citing a collegiate ethos. To me it conveys a common goal.
Diana Thompson has two kids at Quil Ceda Elementary School, a third-grader and a kindergartner, and she told the board she came out of the process with a very strong opinion in favor of the idea. The $40 cost for a years outfits compared favorably to the $120 for store-bought clothes, and Thompson rued the rage for logos on expensive sportswear and attire. It will level the playing field by banning those and kids wont have to stand in their closets each morning and ask themselves which color is going to get me beat up today? Thompson said.
Its really hard to show off your stuff when youre all wearing the same thing, she added. We cant get rid of the fashion shows, they just wont be happening at school. Many of the stresses at this age are eliminated.
She said of 55 e-mails to parents all but two came back with a fairly loud yeah! according to Thompson.
Other parents noted the Spanaway school allowed some different variations, and showed pictures of students in the Bethel district school wearing different T-shirts, polos and sweatshirts for activities such as band. Kids at Cedarcrest Junior High told the mothers that they had fewer distractions, according to Sharon Flynn.
These kids look like they want to learn, Flynn said.
But parent and committee member Jenny Ramos quickly pulled the brakes on the plan. She was in favor of the idea in general and brought her three teenagers to show how the casual dress code would look while she told the board how much money she would save. But instituting the plan at only Marysville Junior High or Totem Middle School as it will be called next year would be picking on tribal members.
Ramos is a Tulalip Indian, married to a Mexican immigrant. She used the term half-breeds to describe the taunts her kids have faced and said of the 100 tribal members she talked to, all objected to trying it out at the districts sole junior high campus. The Tulalips wont support the plan unless it is rolled out at all three middle schools, Ramos said.
I would like to see all schools have a dress code, Ramos told the board.
The issue arose because Marysville Junior High School is the only place students from the two elementary school on the Tulalip Indian Reservation go to as they progress up the ladder to Marysville School District secondary schools. Attendance patterns feed students from certain elementary schools into middle schools, a process that is being revised for the first time in decades this spring. Tulalip and Quil Ceda elementary schools feed the geographically closest secondary school, Marysville Junior High School.
Earlier in the night those boundary shifts were the topic on the agenda and it didnt help matters when a parent rose to complain about her child being shifted from Sunnyside Elementary School in the south to Quil Ceda Elementary School on The Rez. Quil Ceda is the newest building in the district but has a high number of students on free and reduced lunch; the parent complained about Quil Cedas test scores and brought a series of swift rebukes from board members Darci Becker, who has a student at the independent co-op school housed at Quil Ceda, and board member and Tulalip Indian Don Hatch. Other audience members rose to encourage diversity during a workshop for board members to hear about potential attendance boundary shifts.
Then Ramos spoke up about the dress code. Hatch seconded her, saying he spoke to the Tribes General Manager Shelly Lacy, who scratched the idea of just one school implementing a dress code, especially the only middle school Tulalips attend.
If we did this at all three schools it would be tremendous, Hatch said, adding that the proposed dress code at MJHS would stereotype the children there.
Ramos continued to sell the idea of dress codes in general while refusing to support it at only one school, apologizing to Albertson repeatedly for sandbagging her before the school board.
Board chairman Michael Kundu cited other schools that had great success with dress codes, even stricter kinds, and noted that the Seattle School Districts African-American Academy reduced violence and increased academics with their attire policy.
The merits of the program will be overruled by politically correctness, Kundu rued. It seems weve come to an impasse.
Parents were confused when Hatch abruptly left the three-hour meeting at 9:10 p.m. Hansen rose to ask if Hatch left because he was upset but Kundu assured her that Hatch kept a tight schedule and had to leave on time. Contacted after the meeting Hatch affirmed this and that he wasnt upset.
Yeah, I was OK, Hatch said.
Junior high parents continued the sales job, acknowledging the concerns of tribal members but asking for a pilot program somewhere in the district, like the new Totem Middle School. But the remainder of the board; Kundu, Becker, directors Sherri Crenshaw and Cindy Erickson, were at odds on how to do that. Crenshaw said there were so many changes happening next year, with middle school boundaries shifting this fall and elementary school attendance areas the next, and Marysville-Pilchuck High School splitting into several new smaller learning schools, that a dress code district wide, even in a segment of secondary schools, would be too much.
Im not totally sold that we should do it now, Crenshaw said.
Erickson said she didnt want the dress code at one new school but thought the issue could be the straw the broke the camels back.
Im for doing it all, all schools, now, Becker countered, citing the Spanaway school which required uniform for attendance at after-school events. It works for them. I want it done now.
Kundu directed superintendent Larry Nyland to ask the four middle school principals about adopting the plan at their campuses. At the next fall terms those would be Marysville, Cedarcrest and Totem middle schools and the 10th Street School, an options program to be located on the Tulalip Reservation on a shared campus south of Quil Ceda Elementary School. Albertson said she talks monthly with her peers at the middle schools and thought they would be amenable to the idea.
Kundu said he wanted the topic to be an action item for board consideration at their next meeting April 9.
After the meeting Hansen said she was disappointed and surprised that one group could veto an idea.