“We shouldn’t wear uniforms. It’s not cool,” said Deer Valley student Marvin Ware at a Wolverine volleyball game last week. “You don’t walk around wearing the same stuff every day. I don’t like uniforms whatsoever. It’s just boring.” His buddy Derrico Kwa agreed, saying, “I think we shouldn’t wear uniforms because clothes make you, like, express yourself and stuff. And uniforms are ugly.”
Mallissa Silveira, who was shooting video for DVTV, said, “I think it’s bittersweet. I think it’s a good thing on the part of everyone will be looked at, like, equally. But, like, I personally as a student don’t want it. Because I express my own, like, individuality through my clothes and everything.” She believes most students will opt out of uniforms, saying, “More parents will go for it, but not students.”
However, A.J. Faiez, who is on the Deer Valley student leadership council, believes there’s value in uniforms. “I think it will be more proper because some kids swag their pants down sometimes,” he said. “I think if we dress professional, we probably will start studying like professionals. It feels more comfortable. And some people don’t need to buy some clothes outside; the fashion business might go out. But uniforms are good. They are actually very organized.”
Antioch resident Dee Vieira, who has successfully campaigned for school uniforms in the lower grades over the past four years, asked the Antioch Unified School District board Oct. 14 to get the two main high schools to join in, beginning with next year’s freshman class. Students at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School are already wearing medical scrub uniforms to class. Vieira dismissed concerns about uniforms stifling individual creativity, and said uniforms will increase student safety, citing the Sept. 16 shooting of a Deer Valley student near the school and the subsequent lockdown of campus.
“In light of the latest shooting, the lockdown occured around 9 and some kids were outside and some inside,” said Vieira. “I wonder, if they were more identifiable by uniform: could we have brought them inside for safety? You can’t see (student ID) lanyards when their backs are turned or inside their pockets.”
Former school board member Gary Agopian seconded her concern, pointing out that the shooting is believed to have been gang-related and that uniforms would prevent students from being identified by gang colors. “These things create an unsafe environment in our schools,” he said. “The kids know who the gang members are. What we want is a learning environment in our schools – not an environment that encourages gangs or gang-related activities. I want to charge you to be bold, recognizing that we have increasing violence and increasing gang-related violence.”
Because the issue was on the board agenda for discussion and not for a vote, board members unanimously gave direction verbally and with nods to administrators (Teri Lynn Shaw was absent but Claire Smith nodded for her, saying she knows Shaw favors uniforms) to begin the six-month process of determining whether to implement uniforms at Antioch and Deer Valley high schools.
Board President Walter Ruehlig said the process starts in October with formation of a committee of school staff, parents and students to gauge the interest in adopting uniforms. An informational meeting is held in November. In December a survey is conducted to quantify the support for uniforms. And, if there’s sufficient support, a presentation is made to the school board in January or February to gain approval. Parents are then notified of the new policy, the financial assistance that might be available to help purchase uniforms, and the procedure for opting out.
The process is designed to ensure that the school community has bought in to the idea of uniforms before implementing them rather than making it a top-down board mandate. School officials are pleased with the results of implementing uniforms in the lower grade levels.
“A uniform in and of itself will not raise a test score or stop a fight if someone wants to get into it,” acknowledged Smith. “But what it does for the majority of the students is it puts them in work clothes and they go to work. My husband puts on a shirt and tie. Does he like it? No, he takes it off as soon as he gets home. My children are raised that going to school is their job right now.”
Board members did not make a decision on whether to implement the uniforms immediately through all four high school grades or instead begin with just the freshman class.