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Kannapolis OKs uniforms for A.L. Brown students

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó Despite pleas from parents and students, Kannapolis Board of Education members cited the greater good in unanimously approving a school uniform policy for A.L. Brown High School, effective in August.
A.L. Brown will be the first high school in Cabarrus and Rowan counties, and one of only a few public high schools in the state, to require school uniforms.
Under the new policy, students will not be able to wear jeans, cargo pants or cargo shorts.
All pants, shorts or skirts must be of “a twill-like material.”
Athletic-style sandals and flip-flops are also banned. Open-toed shoes of other types, such as high heels, are permitted, as are most other kinds of footwear, including tennis shoes.
For the past three years, the school has had a dress code that mandated specific colors and styles of shirts in addition to banning disruptive clothing.
About 60 parents and students attended Monday afternoon’s board meeting at the central office downtown.
The half-hour public comment period was dominated by those speaking against uniforms.
“There really isn’t a need for the uniform policy being presented today,” rising A.L. Brown sophomore Chase Hardin said.
He said the current dress code wasn’t being enforced as well as it should be.
“At the beginning of the school year the dress code would be enforced and there were no issues,” Hardin said. He said that changed as the year wore on.
“You’d see kids getting away with more, I guess you’d call them infractions. It sort of snowballed,” he said.
Rising sophomore Hannah Love cited cuts to programs like free breakfasts for students as reasons why the school should avoid uniforms. “I strongly doubt we can afford the resources to help everyone in need,” Love said, responding to reports that school officials would help families in financial need meet the new clothing requirement.
Rising sophomore Dakota Pulasco also cited financial concerns.
“If the goal is quality education, I don’t think this is the answer,” Pulasco said.
No one from the public spoke in favor of uniforms at the meeting.
Principal Kevin Garay said some of the same reasons voiced in opposition to uniforms ó economic stress and student pride among them ó were reasons for supporting the policy.
“I’m speaking for some of the people who aren’t here,” Garay said.
“Almost every teacher wants this. Many parents want it. Many want it for affordability reasons,” he said. “I know that right now that seems almost laughable.”
Just as current students would have to buy new clothes to meet the policy, he said, the families of rising freshmen who are used to uniforms at Kannapolis Intermediate School would not have that expense.
He mentioned the positive outcome of putting the modified dress code into place three years ago, and reminded parents that at the time it was made clear that a full uniform might be coming.
And Garay said that the uniform policy wasn’t an attempt to stifle students’ expression.
“We want you to express yourself in the papers you write, the clubs you join and the colleges you go to,” he said. “We don’t want you expressing yourselves through dress.”
Danita Rickard, chair of the school board, said the board had encouraged putting the policy in place now as opposed to January to avoid further financial stress at Christmas.
“I have found that uniforms save us money,” board member Todd Adams said. He has two children in Kannapolis schools.
Adams said he had spoken to people on both sides of the issue and had heard concerns about the timing as well. “I don’t know when the timing was going to be the best,” he said.
Board member Charles Mitchell recommended that the school put together a fashion show to show students and parents the possibilities of the new uniform policy, as had been done when uniforms were adopted by other schools.
Board member Millie Hall, who made the motion to approve the policy, said prior to the vote that she had been to several local retailers who offer uniform-appropriate clothes at low prices.
And board member Doris Buchanan said that efforts were underway to collect money for underprivileged students.
She said that needy families can contact Trinity United Methodist Church during this Saturday’s church-wide yard sale; money is being collected to provide uniforms for students in all grades whose families cannot afford them.
A number of parents and students left the meeting when it became clear that all members of the board supported the proposal.
Still more murmured their disapproval when members voted to suspend policy and approve the school uniform proposal without a second reading. Normally, such a change would have had to wait until the next month’s meeting.
After the vote, Garay said he would continue to work with students and parents to address their concerns.
But the vote left many unhappy.
“If they’re really considering the students’ point of view, why not let the students vote on it?” Cheri Hancock said. “If so many students like it, like they said, why not let them decide?”

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