School uniforms idea draws mixed views

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brookhaven School District leaders andcommunity members have discussed the idea of student uniforms inthe district, but Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya wants toassure the public no immediate plans for uniforms are in place.

    “We’re not going to uniforms,” Karmacharya said.

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    Karmacharya has begun quarterly meetings with an advisory committeeof parents and community members.

    At the Jan. 17 meeting, Karmacharya asked parents for theiropinions of school uniforms, the superintendent said Friday. Shealso asked the committee members to seek the opinions of othercommunity members in order to get a fuller perspective of thedistrict’s opinion.

    “She just told us she wanted to hear what our opinions were,” saidSuzanne Britt, a committee member. “She wanted to gauge what thefeeling was in the community.”

    At Karmacharya’s request, Britt and others initiated discussion ofthe matter on Facebook and other venues.

    Karmacharya said she counts herself neither a strong proponent noropponent of the idea.

    “I don’t have a preference one way or another,” Karmacharya said.”I’ve been in districts that have done both.”

    Research on the issue has been very mixed, the superintendentsaid.

    Karmacharya said in an advisory meeting with district teachers someteachers brought up the idea of uniforms. Karmacharya said themajority of teachers were in favor of the idea, and so she passedthe idea on to the parent and community committee to hear theirresponse.

    Karmacharya deemed responses “really diverse.” Committee membersagreed.

    “The opinions were all over the map,” Britt said. “I had no ideapeople felt so strongly both ways.”

    The topic has been a matter of discussion in the district before,Britt said, but was quickly dismissed.

    Karmacharya said even if the administration wanted to go touniforms, there would not be enough time to implement them for the2012-13 school year.

    Karmacharya said she would like to seek a consensus and encouragedialogue on the issue before she considered moving forward on anyuniform proposal.

    Though there is no timeline for continued discussion of the topic,Britt said the committee plans to report back to Karmacharya on thecommunity discussion at the next advisory meeting, scheduled forMarch 20.

    For her part, Britt supports school uniforms.

    “I come from a military background, so I think uniforms are great,”Britt said.

    Cindy Townsend, another committee member, opposes the idea.Townsend said she believes uniforms fail to achieve what supporterssay they do.

    One issue brought up by Karmacharya in favor of uniforms is safety,said Britt and Townsend.

    Karmacharya told the committee uniforms enable administrators toquickly identify who is and who is not a student on the school’scampus, according to Britt and Townsend.

    Though she remains opposed, Townsend said she would defer to theadministrators and school board if they felt uniforms werenecessary to ensure students’ safety.

    On that matter, Townsend and Britt agree.

    “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make ourkids safe and they’re learning everything they can,” Brittsaid.