KUSD adopts uniform policy

High school, middle school students must wear official T-shirts next school year

KINGMAN - Three schools in the Kingman Unified School District will require students to wear school T-shirts next year.

That decision was reached during a meeting Tuesday night of the Kingman Unified School District Governing Board.

Discussion was lengthy, with pros and cons being offered on adoption of T-shirts and sweat jackets as standard dress for students at Kingman High School and Kingman and White Cliffs middle schools. The vote to approve the new dress code was 3-2.

Superintendent Maurice Flores led off the agenda item by saying administrators were looking at ways to improve spirit and security at KHS.

"We've looked at several research pieces, including data from the Los Angeles School District and Long Beach (Calif.) School District, as well as other districts," he said. "Research shows schools are moving toward uniforms and what we are looking at is shirts.

"I believe it would improve morale and security. Shirts we've looked at would cost $5 or $7 and jackets about $14."

Flores said many students like to wear expensive clothes to school. Other kids can't compete with them and that potentially can cause violence.

Board President Pat Carlin Jr. immediately said he has not seen any written policy on shirts as part of a dress code. Flores replied a policy would be developed.

Discussion continued on such points as campus security and whether requiring shirts would improve it, as well as incidents of violence.

"I'd like to know how many incidents there have been (of children hurting each other over clothes)," Carlin said. "I'm hearing from one group and what they think, but feedback I've gotten is that very few support the idea.

"Are we reaching out to all students and not just one group? Are we reaching out to all parents and not just one group?"

KHS Principal Pat Mickelson then addressed the Board. She said KHS is one of the last bigger schools to consider mandatory shirts as part of a dress code and that lessons can be learned by what other schools have done.

"We received 448 responses from among freshmen, sophomores and juniors to a questionnaire put out in homerooms and shirts were not supported," Mickelson said. "I was hoping to have a 30 percent positive response and we got 22 percent for it. Less than 50 percent said it would reduce dress code violations, so it was about what I expected."

Lake Havasu High has a shirt policy in effect. She sent a team to that school last fall and they came back saying such a policy should be enacted at KHS.

The "climate" at LHS is less focused on fashion style and its accompanying disruptions and more on promoting a stronger learning environment, Mickelson said.

"This will not solve everything (related to security and school morale), but it is a piece of the puzzle," she said. "Resistance among students is because they haven't tried it, but what we've seen is that it lessens peer pressure and enables students to better focus."

Principal Jerry Arave of Kingman Middle School said 29 teachers there support a uniform shirt policy, while three oppose it. He added 17 classified staff employees support it as well, with eight undecided about it or not present when it was discussed.

White Cliffs Middle School Principal John Venenga said percentages of teachers supporting the measure were similar at his school.

"I also talked with some kids during lunch today, and 25 percent said they were in favor of it as long as they don't have to wear dress slacks or long skirts," Venenga said.

Carlin said he could not vote to support the measure without a written policy in effect and more information on shirt and jacket prices.

"I'm all for school spirit," Carlin said. "I want Kingman High to be what it was in the past, but trends among children today are different, and I don't believe they're going to change with a T-shirt."

Member Charles Lucero said parents want their children to have a safer learning environment and the measure would move toward it.

A woman in the audience said she knew nothing about the item until hearing it earlier that day on the radio. She wanted to know how the Board could approve something that parents know nothing about.

Another woman came out in support of the measure, saying it would be easier for her to shop for her children's clothes.

One other woman said she had spoken with Sheriff Tom Sheahan and he told her discipline problems at one county high school were down 50 percent since it went to a school shirt.

Carlin said he does not want to rush into shirt adoption without parental input.

Lucero suggested the three principals hold parental meetings in the next two weeks and gather input. Flores agreed.

"We need to get out into the community and get that parental input and support in order to make this work," member Bill Goodale said.

Carlin added that people not in favor of it should participate in writing the policy.