Most speakers at Cape school forum against dress code proposal

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Students model uniforms in front of the potential uniform policy Monday night, January 9, 2012 during the first of two public forums at the Cape Junior High School auditorium to discuss the possibility of instating a uniform policy at Cape Public Schools. (Laura Simon)

Emotions ran against a proposed uniform policy at the first forum held by the Cape Girardeau School District on Monday night.

After a presentation from three members of the dress code committee that detailed research on positive effects seen by other school districts with uniform codes, the floor opened for comment and questions from the public.

Twenty-nine of around 100 people in attendance spoke in the time allotted, which was an hour and a half. Not many questions were asked of the committee. All but two people, including parents, grandparents, employees of the school district and students, spoke against the proposed uniform policy, citing too much expense for families, too much control over individual expression, a failure of the district to enforce current dress codes, questionable research used by the committee and mismanagement of the methods used to craft the proposal, such as lacking parent input.

First to speak was Eric Redinger, husband of Jennifer Redinger, who began the Facebook page Parents who want a voice regarding the Uniform Policy at CGPS.

"I've seen many demonstrations with people concealing weapons," said Redinger, who works at Southeast Missouri State University and has children attending the district's schools.

"Officers, I'm not going to pull out anything dangerous," Redinger said toward two school resource officers who were positioned near a door at the front of the junior high auditorium.

Redinger pulled from the pockets of his pleated khaki pants a cellphone; a paintbrush, which he compared in size to a knife; two bicycle wrenches, which he compared in size and weight to two small pistols; matches and lip balm, which he compared to the size and materials needed for a small pipe bomb; a granola bar; a set of keys and a money clip. Redinger said jeans would not allow concealment of as many weapons as would a pair of pleated khaki pants, like the ones that could be worn under the proposed uniform policy.

When writing the proposal, the committee looked at safety, which is an area "of huge concern," said Carla Fee, the junior high principal and chairwoman of the committee.

But Redinger said his main problem with the proposed policy is the cost.

"At what I consider the bare minimum the amount of uniforms required to get through a school year for one boy and one girl, the bare minimum cost would be around $670," he said.

Jean Miller said she has paid for uniforms for her children attending schools that required them and that she found them affordable. She said that after working on Wall Street for more than 20 years and now as an employee of the university, she sees dress not as an issue of safety but an issue of expecting professionalism from students.

"I can't tell you the number of young people I've had to tell, 'If you want to play on the team, you wear the uniform,'" she said.

Three students who spoke during the forum voiced opposition to the proposed policy. One with her hand up throughout the forum who wasn't granted a turn due to time allotment was freshman Amanda Webb. She came to the forum with a prepared statement in hand. Her mother, Serena Webb, said during the time her daughter had attended Cape Girardeau public schools, she had never been bullied until Monday. But she was, she said, because her daughter told other students she was going to speak at the forum.

"I feel that if authority figures in our schools would have enforced the dress code policy we have right now, we wouldn't be looking at uniforms," Amanda Webb wrote in her statement. "As a student, I see bullying, but I've never seen it because of what someone was wearing."

According to superintendent Dr. Jim Welker, the committee will take input from the forums and use it as it drafts a final proposal to be presented to the school board. A tentative date for the board to vote on the proposal is Feb. 27 at a regular board meeting. School board president Stacy Kinder said the date was moved back from January to allow the board to have time to digest forum ideas and properly vet any policy changes with the Missouri School Board Association.

The proposed uniform policy requires students wear a polo or oxford shirt in orange, black, gray or white, tucked in with a belt and khaki or black pants, or skirts, jumpers and shorts within certain length. Certain sweaters and leggings would be accepted.

A second public forum on the policy will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17 in the junior high auditorium.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

205 Caruthers Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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