Students at one Lincoln County elementary school will don uniforms next year. And, after a vote by the Board of Education Thursday evening, so will the teachers and staff.
After much previous discussion, including recent public forums with parents, Battleground Elementary School received approval to pilot a requested uniform program, with Ed Hatley the lone board member voting against the proposal.
He has previously said he believes such a policy limits the right of expression and also questioned the need to over-regulate or fix something that’s not broken.
Battleground Principal Jim Heffner has said his school, which serves grades kindergarten through third, does not have an issue with inappropriate dress or bullying. Instead, he pushed for the uniform program as a proactive chance to build self-esteem and acceptance in students, while also leveling social classes and increasing attendance.
Teachers have highlighted it as an opportunity to heighten the sense of community within the school. This was part of the reasoning behind board member Bob Silver making a motion to include a stipulation in the policy that teachers and staff also wear the uniforms, to include navy, light blue or white polo tops or school T-shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys with khaki bottoms.
Other than certain exceptions allowed for religious purposes or teachers who transfer back and forth between other schools, Silver said he believed the school’s adults should also “walk the walk” and set the example for students.
Board member Cathy Davis echoed his sentiments.
“You can’t have one without the other,” she said of the school’s pursuit of uniformity, which she noted should go “all the way up.”
Heffner said he didn’t see the requirement as necessary, with most teachers already planning to adhere to the dress code anyway, and that the policy’s focus was intended to be on the children. School Board Chair Candy Burgin suggested that they hold off on the stipulation for the pilot program, saying it could be revisited later should the uniforms move forward past the initial trial year.
Nonetheless, the board voted, with the exception of Hatley, to include the revision in the policy.
Other conditions in the now-approved policy include the discretion of the board to terminate the program should they choose to do so, the ability for students, teachers and staff to opt out for religious purposes and the requirement that no funds from the state be used in its implementation.
Heffner will also be required to collect data on the uniform program, to be presented twice during the school year. An evaluation of the pilot project will also take place a year from now.
Battleground Elementary teachers in attendance at Thursday’s meeting applauded the board’s decision. Many parents at public forums over the last few weeks — which board members attended after delaying action on the item at previous meetings to gather more input — also spoke favorably of the uniforms.