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District 118 OKs uniform dress

Students, parents speak out against clothing changes.

DANVILLE — Danville School District 118 board members voted 6-1 Wednesday to implement a uniform standard of dress districtwide for the 2014-2015 school year.

Administrators will gather input about what the uniform dress should look like and then recommend to the school board an implementation plan at a later date. Northeast Elementary Magnet School’s current uniforms will remain unchanged.

Although board members were supposed to vote on the issue at their Feb. 12 meeting, board members Steve Bragorgos and Frank Young asked that the “concept” of uniform dressing for kindergarten through 12th grade be placed on Wednesday’s agenda.

At a special study session on Jan. 15, several local ministers spoke out in favor of school uniforms, saying they would prevent the display of gang colors, make visitors more visible at the schools and minimize economic class difference and bullying. Many of those same ministers were at Wednesday’s meeting.

Several Danville High School students as well as parents also packed the meeting to speak out against uniforms.

DHS junior Natalie Mahoy said, “My biggest thing is we already have a strict dress code. It’s only a small percentage of students who don’t follow it. I don’t understand why it’s not enforced.

“It’s a punishment to the rest of us who do follow the dress code,” she said.

Fellow classmate Becca Lewis said, “I don’t think uniforms will help me learn better. They’ll have to buy uniforms for some students and that’s a big unnecessary expense for the district. That money could be used for technology or to clean the facilities.

“The last time this came up, it was shut down by the parents,” Lewis said of the results of a 2011 survey of parents who opposed uniforms. “This time they didn’t give parents and students any notice.”

District 118 parent Molly LaMar criticized the board for “placing the cart before the horse” by voting on a uniform standard of dress before knowing what it would entail.

“Who’s going to police this?” she said. “Are you going to have someone at the front door of DHS at 8 a.m. checking all 1,700 kids?”

North Ridge parent Patty Walters also complained about the board’s haste to vote on the issue.

“It’s very rushed, like it’s trying to be passed under the radar and that doesn’t feel good,” she said. “The dress code needs to be enforced before I spend money on uniforms.”

She said uniform dressing won’t solve some of the issues, such as droopy pants.

“Pants can be bought too big. If they want to sag their pants, they can do it,” she said. “It’s not fair to penalize the kids who follow the dress code.”

Bragorgos, however, said, “Our schools are in trouble. They are in a state of continual decline. We’re not here for what people want us to do. We’re here for what’s best for our community.

“A uniform is not a major expense. It costs much less than what they currently wear,” he said.

“If you don’t wear a uniform, you can go home,” he said, adding “that he didn’t care” if having fewer students in school might result in a loss of state and federal aid to the district.

Also on Wednesday, school board members:

n Voted 4-2 to approve a residency waiver for Meade Park Principal Mendy Spesard who is moving to a farm operation in Ridge Farm, which is about 2 miles farther than the current requirement that administrators live within 10 miles of District 118. Young and Bragorgos, who opposed the waiver, said they would like to change the residency requirement so that administrators live in the district.

“What’s so bad about living in Danville?” Bragorgos said. “If you want to take a significant job, like administrator or principal, then you should live in the district. Otherwise, you can be a teacher.”

n Recognized three faculty members during the Spotlight on Staff: Cannon Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Adrian Koerner, South View Middle School science teacher Robert Cundiff and DHS math coach Brian Ritz.

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