Newark schools to require uniforms

August 27, 2008 2:53:48 PM PDT
Only two months after he became Newark's new schools superintendent, Clifford Janey is announcing a major change: required uniforms for the roughly 30,000 elementary school students in the city. "It's part of an overall approach to have increased learning opportunities by establishing a school climate that's not distracted by behaviors associated with what you have on," Janey told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

About half of the states in the U.S. allow school districts to institute uniform policies, according to the Education Commission of the States, a Colorado-based research and policy organization.

In New Jersey, school districts must hold hearings and give parents three-months notice, so Newark wouldn't be able to implement dress code changes until Dec. 1 at the earliest.

Janey, who served as the top schools administrator in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that the late start date wasn't the "best of timing," since back-to-school shopping takes place in August. Still, Janey said he wanted to see how the policy works this year.

"This fits the entire picture of preparing students for success," Janey said.

The districtwide guidelines announced by Janey would allow polo and button down shirts, but not T-shirts or shirts without sleeves.

Crew neck sweaters with collared shirts are fine, but not hooded tops. Blue, black and brown shoes are OK, but not sandals, clogs, flip flops or bedroom slippers.

Principals, staff and parent groups at each school would decide on the specifics of style and color.

Some public schools in Newark already require uniforms. Angel Juarbe implemented a uniform policy at Elliott Street School when he was principal there in 2003. Now an executive assistant to Janey, Juarbe said Elliott's uniform policy not only created a better school environment - but also saved parents cash.

"That was the big thing. Parents could buy one or two uniforms and it was much less expensive than an entire back to school wardrobe," Juarbe said.

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