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Caroline parents, students pan uniform idea

The majority of the parents who attended a forum this week to discuss having school uniforms in Caroline County schools were against the idea.

About 75 parents, students and teachers went to the forum Tuesday night to weigh in on a proposal to require students to wear uniforms in the public schools in the county.

A committee made up of 28 people—principals, parents, teachers and other community members—presented its findings to the public.

David Storke, the mayor of Bowling Green and owner of Storke Funeral Home, and six other business owners formulated the idea several months ago, and the large committee formed to flesh out the issue.

The vision of the uniform committee is “to better prepare Caroline County Public School students to be positive contributors in their community and to overcome the challenges of the competitive marketplace,” according to a paper passed out to attendees.

Students modeled examples of the uniforms that they would wear: red, white or blue shirts, navy, khaki or plaid navy bottoms.

Another sheet distributed had examples of the cost of clothes that could be worn under a uniform policy, with pricing from Lands End, JCPenney, Target, Burlington Coat Factory and Kmart.

This forum, at Lewis and Clark elementary, is the second the county held to get public feedback. The first one was last month at Bowling Green Elementary.

The majority of the parents who spoke said the same thing: Making the students wear uniforms won’t solve the problems the school system is facing, or repair the school system’s perception issue.

Stoke said he has heard people from around the Fredericksburg area criticize the school system—unfairly, in his opinion.

“Although we are not perfect or where we would like to be, we were not the dog everyone said it was,” he said.

He said he knows school uniforms won’t be the “magic bullet,” but the discussions that it has sparked have led to the county’s school system “stepping up our game,” he said.

Superintendent Greg Killough said the school system has made tremendous strides.

Several students and parents came out against the proposed policy.

A Caroline High student said uniforms “take away a student’s ability to express who they are.”

A seventh-grade student at Caroline Middle echoed the sentiment, saying it would take away her “personal expression.”

A parent agreed with her, saying it takes away the students’ ability to define themselves.

However, another parent said that her child has no issue with uniforms and expresses himself with his personality, not his clothing.

Another parent said the school system needs to enforce the current dress code and make parents more responsible for what the students wear.

One parent said the school doesn’t have a “clothing problem,” but it has a discipline problem. And several parents said that having uniforms won’t fix a bullying issue.

“Kids will find something to pick on you about,” one parent said.

Also, several parents said that the school system should focus on the education the students are getting, rather than what the students are wearing.

Storke made a point that all the teachers and administrators he has spoken to support the idea of uniforms.

Killough said there is another survey planned. He said more discussion is needed—in the community and on the committee—before any decisions can be made.

He said the committee will make a recommendation to the School Board in February, but there will be more public hearings and the School Board likely won’t take action until March or April.

Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413