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Parents say no to uniforms -- again

Parents of Bardmoor Elementary students vote down mandatory uniforms. But the principal says a committee will explore the idea further.

By JULIANNE WU, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2002

SEMINOLE -- For the third year, the issue of mandatory uniforms for Bardmoor Elementary School has failed.

Although 65 percent of the parents approved of uniforms last week, the issue needed 75 percent of all parents voting to pass it.

But, all is not lost, said principal Linda B. Nore. "Because so many parents voted for it (227 out of 352 who voted in the recent balloting), our SAC (School Advisory Council) and PTA are looking into forming a committee to go with voluntary uniforms. I think uniforms are a good thing. And, we had a really positive response."

There is a regular process that Pinellas County schools have to go through to get a mandatory uniform policy, Nore explained.

Among the things Bardmoor School did to publicize the issue were talks by officials from Starkey Elementary in Seminole and Azalea and Blanton Elementary schools in St. Petersburg -- all of which have mandatory uniforms.

Also, there were several faculty and PTA meetings and fliers were sent home to parents on several occasions before they received ballots.

Although Nore could not vote, 98 percent of the 63 faculty members under her voted for mandatory uniforms this time around, she said.

Earlier this month, ballots were sent home to families with children in kindergarten through fourth grade (fifth-graders were not included because they will be in middle school in the fall). Only one ballot was sent out, even if the families had more than one child in school.

Out of 443 families, 352 returned ballots. Of that, 227 said they wanted uniforms and 125 voted against them. Ninety-one families did not return their ballots. "I am thrilled to see that we had 79 percent of all ballots returned," the principal said. "We only needed 55 percent. We did our homework, but parents made their choice. And, we will go whichever way the parents want it."

Currently, there are 14 elementary schools in Pinellas County with mandatory uniform policies and 14 where uniforms are voluntary. The first school in Pinellas to require uniforms was Azalea Elementary in 1996.

Schools in Pinellas and across the nation with mandatory uniform policies have generally reported that uniforms helped to improve student behavior, gave greater school pride, increased students' self-esteem and self-respect and contributed to higher achievements.

Proponents also say uniforms help bridge socio-economic differences between students by eliminating the need for competition in clothing, especially expensive designer clothes.

Despite the positive testimonials, a 1997 national study by two University of Notre Dame graduate students, using statistical analysis and empirical research, found that uniforms did not contribute to higher achievement or improved discipline.

-- Information from Times files used in this report.

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