What Happens When a School Uniform Changes Mid-Year?

Parents of students at Southern High School, in Santa Rita, Guam don't mind that the new administration is taking the school's uniform rules seriously. Uniform requirements at Southern are stricter than those established by the Guam Education board, but the fact that administrators are now asking that students adhere to these rules isn't what is riling up some Southern parents. What is raising parent protest is that the administrators are starting to enforce these rules in the middle of the academic year.

Esther Mallada, one of the parents who voiced her concern over the approach the school heads said she didn't like the fact that her daughter was told several months into the academic year that the uniform pants she's been wearing since September were all of a sudden not allowed. Mallada added that the previous administration expressed no issues with the pants — as long as they were black.

According to Mallada, enforcing stricter rules now would put to parents an additional expense, but Robert Malay, the Department of Education deputy superintendent for assessment and accountability, backed up the administration, saying that they were not creating new standards, but enforcing rules already on the books. His view is that just because the previous administration practiced inconsistent enforcement doesn't mean that students should have been flaunting the regulations.

Malay clarified the board policy on school uniform does not require students to buy from a specific store. The board policy also does not address the tightness or shortness of school uniforms, Malay said. But while board policy neither bans tight-fitting pants nor requires vendor-specific uniforms, it adds language that says "schools may apply additional restrictions" under another board policy. Southern High came up with its own rules that say uniforms must come from a specific vendor.

The enforcement action was preceded by a memo sent out to Southern families specifying that uniform pants may not be either tight or baggy and that any skirts or skorts worn as part of the uniform must be at least knee-length.

After the special bulletin was sent out, parent Bernadette Tajalle said that as many as 100 students were pulled into the office with uniform issues. Like Mallada, Tajalle also said that she had less of an issue with stricter standards than the fact that it was done in mid-year.

Tajalle said the uniform rules shouldn't change in the middle of the school year, when parents have already budgeted and paid for the uniforms. Her daughter wasn't the only one in her family to encounter the school's uniform crackdown.

"I have a niece; she was told she was gonna be suspended because of the tightness of her shorts," Tajalle said.

11 1, 2012
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