A proposal to mandate uniforms in Broward schools isn’t generating much excitement or opposition, so the School Board now wants to hear more from the public before moving forward.
The School Board rejected a proposal Tuesday from Board member Daniel Foganholi to start developing a new policy that would mandate all K-12 students wear “unified dress,” such as solid, colored, collared shirts with solid, colored khakis, shorts or skirts.
Instead, the board supported a substitute request by Board member Debbi Hixon to survey parents, student, school staff and community members to get feedback.
Superintendent Peter Licata said after the meeting the survey should be out within the next three weeks. He said the district will also seek input from its advisory committees.
Foganholi asked the School Board to start the rule-making process to develop a policy on school uniforms, a process that also would have required public feedback. But School Board member Allen Zeman said beginning rule-making might give the impression that the School Board already supports the idea.
While most board members said they weren’t personally opposed to the idea of uniforms, they feared a repeat of their botched effort last year to mandate clear backpacks without knowing whether the public wanted it. Parents overwhelmingly opposed it, the requirement was dropped.
“I believe with public sentiment, a lot of great things can happen and without public sentiment, everything’s just too hard,” Zeman said. “And I don’t hear public sentiment for this yet.”
But unlike the clear backpack proposal, there’s not clear opposition either.
Many elementary and some middle schools already have school uniform requirements, although high schools have for the most part avoided mandating them. They are common in charter and private schools.
Only about a half-dozen speakers weighed in on the proposal, and there was no clear consensus.
Parent Jacqui Luscombe said her children used to attend charter schools, and one reason she moved them to district-run schools was she had been spending a lot of money on uniforms.
“When you have growing children, every few months you are replacing those really expensive shirts and really expensive monogram shorts. It was ridiculous,” she said. “There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that wearing a uniform had any bearing on the behavior challenges, the schools deal with those behaviors and academic outcomes for kids.”
Joy Cooper, mayor of Hallandale Beach, spoke in favor of school uniforms. She said she’s surprised that they’re required in some, but not all, Broward schools.
“I believe uniforms are creating an accountable, responsible environment that shows discipline without distraction,” she said.
Five board members voted to seek more public input before moving forward — Hixon, Zeman, Lori Alhadeff, Sarah Leonardi and Jeff Holness. Three dissented: Foganholi, Torey Alston and Brenda Fam. Nora Rupert was absent.
“While I am disheartened by delaying of this situation, I maintain an open mind and value the importance of obtaining more public input,” Foganholi said. “We must reach a point where we stop kicking the can down the road, deferring decisions and take action to enhance our district. Embracing change is hard, and it’s easy to stick with old practices that have been in place for years.
“Despite survey results coming in, I’m skeptical about whether this board possesses the determination to bring about any meaningful change,” Foganholi said.