Updated 06/20/2012 06:29 PM
Poughkeepsie school uniform policy evaluated
With the first year of Poughkeepsie's school uniform policy coming to a close, school leaders are looking to make some changes and revive the policy. As YNN's John Wagner reports, the first year of the program wasn't as successful as school leaders would have hoped.
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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Khakis and polos meant to cut down on bullying, boost academics and foster school spirit looked good on day one with more than three-quarters of students unified.
"The first couple of weeks, you could really see a change, even in the behavior of some of the young people, and then of course it kind of went away as the year went on," said Ralph Coates, one of five Poughkeepsie City school board members.
Jeans and t-shirts became the norm by Thanksgiving and after Christmas, only around 15 to 35 percent of elementary students stuck with the uniforms, but almost no middle and high schoolers. In a twist, bullies targeted the few left dressing up.
"It was a last minute implementation," said school board member Raymond Duncan. "It was done very haphazardly, I think, without a lot of input from the community, from the parents. And I think we saw that in how it played out. It wasn't successful."
"After a couple weeks, they just like forgot about it. They're like, they can't send the whole school home, so what are you going to do?" said Maielle Brown, a 10th grader at Poughkeepsie High School who wore approved clothing the first semester.
District leaders are reworking the policy in hopes of gaining year two traction. High schoolers may get casual Fridays and Thursdays and opt to wear Pioneer clothing on uniform days. But many parents say more community input and better communication is key.
"Many of them are purchasing supplies right away," explained Dr. Ronel Cook, the principal at Poughkeepsie Middle School. "Many of them are going on vacation, so they need to know right away this is what we're going to do and this is how we're going to do it."
Many chalk poor participation up to state law that makes it optional. Schools hope to win reluctant students over with encouragement, awards, pride days and field trips.
"Unless it's a law and unless you can have some kind of punishment to enforce it, then it's not going to change," said 10th grader Dominque Wright.
"Everybody has to buy in in order for it to work," said school board member Randy Johnson, who approves of school uniforms, but believes more stakeholder input is a must.
Parents and students who want a say in the school uniform debate should come to a public hearing on the code of conduct July 7th at 11:15 a.m. The hearing may be followed by a board vote that would decide the issue and the entire code of conduct for next year.
The public hearing will be held at the Jane Bolin Administration Building, 11 College Avenue, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 12603.