Parents almost uniformly spoke out against the proposal to require Carson High School students to wear a standard attire as part of a meeting Tuesday evening to gauge public opinion.
“Uniforms only stifle individualism and creativity,” said parent David Brooks. “I don’t want my children to go through either of those.”
In the first of two community meetings to discuss the proposal, about 110 people attended, all but two opposing uniforms. The meeting, which at times erupted into shouting, lasted nearly two hours with dozens of parents and students addressing Carson High School officials.
Principal Ron Beck explained that a committee had been formed about five weeks ago to look into implementing standard student attire, commonly referred to as school uniforms, for next school year. He emphasized It was a security issue.
“The reason for the standard student attire has absolutely nothing to do with the current dress code at all,” Beck said. “The total reason we’re doing it has to do with safety and security at the school.”
The school has 52 doors and 2,100 students, he said.
“We have non-students coming into this school, and we cannot recognize them,” he said. “It’s become a real problem. We have to come up with a way to protect our students.”
Sheila Lambert said the accessibility of the campus should be more of a focus than students’ clothes.
“No building should have 52 points of ingress and egress,” she said. “That should be our No. 1 item to address. Whether or not my child has a polo is not going to make her safe in the classroom.”
Several parents shared anecdotes about walking into the school and not being acknowledged by office staffers for several minutes, if at all. Many said they ended up bypassing the office.
While the specific dress was not discussed, it likely will resemble the standard attire at both middle schools and most elementary schools, which require certain colors of pants and polo shirts.
Jennifer Cherpeski said it would not deter trespassers.
“Any person can go and buy a pair of khakis and a polo shirt,” she said. “They will blend in.”
Parents also protested the cost of additional clothing and argued that having students all look alike might make them less safe because they won’t be as easily identified.
They also pointed out that it’s difficult to find clothes that fit well. Limiting the selection makes it harder.
“One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to women’s wear,” said Charlene Billow. “You’re not going to have the same pair of pants fit all the girls the same.”
They also questioned the ability of local retailers to keep up with the demand, especially if the decision is made in May for the next school year.
Tod Jennings was the sole parent voice in favor of uniforms.
“You people who want your children to be individuals, do you want them to be remembered for what they wore to school or what they accomplished in school?” he asked. “This is a school. Its business is school, not fashion.”
Jennings cut off his remarks early amid heckling from the crowd.
Five students spoke out against the proposal — mainly citing negative experiences from Carson Middle School — and one sophomore spoke in favor.
“It could increase our unity at the school,” said Margaret Duvall. “Even if you don’t like the uniforms, we all have the same things to hate.”
Parents and students objected to the process being used to make the decision as well, questioning who was on the committee and how they were selected.
“You’re saying there’s student input,” said sophomore Jacob Bertocchi, “but you’re not letting us know how to give our input.”
Parents also expressed skepticism that their opinions would be taken into account.
Mark Rodina, dean of students at the high school and chairman of the Standard Student Attire Committee, assured them they would be.
“I feel like I’ve gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson,” he said.“ Believe me, your input is being taken.”
A second community meeting is set for 6 p.m. March 27 at the high school. Beck said the feedback will be taken into account, along with the results of parent and student surveys, before a decision is made.