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|Pottstown School District set to make a fashion statement|
Evan Brandt, firstname.lastname@example.org
POTTSTOWN -- Before you buy that fancy new pair of pants or those $500 sneakers to put under the tree for the Pottstown schools student on your list, be warned that it’s likely the district will institute a new uniform or dress code policy in 2008.
Although the decision has not yet been made official with a vote, two school board members who are part of a committee looking at the subject said this past week it is likely they will make a recommendation to the board in January.
We expect to come back to the board next year with a recommendation for some or all of the students to be in uniform," said school board member Edwin Edwards.
He and board member Amy Bathurst-Francis serve on the superintendent’s facilities committee, which also includes parents, two high school students, teachers and administrators.
"And, I’ll tell you," Superintendent David Krem said after Thursday’s board meeting, "it is really the parents who are driving this. The high school students raised the arguments you might expect about self-expression and one mother looked at her and said, ‘You’ve got to get over yourself, we’re doing this,’" Krem recalled.
The debate over uniforms and dress codes has occurred in Pottstown in years past and the current code mostly just dictates appearance in terms of the condition and length of clothes, as well as governing piercings and tattoos.
Bathurst-Francis said, "We don’t have an exact uniform in place," but Krem said there would be many options within the framework the district is envisioning.
In fact, he said, later in the spring there is talk of a "fashion show" to educate the community about what would be allowed under the new policy.
While such policies are often enacted in an effort to promote civility, eliminate conflict over things like expensive sneakers or gang "colors," there is an even more urgent motive behind the move, said Bathurst-Francis.
Baggy clothing, particularly shirts not tucked into pants, can be used to conceal weapons.
To emphasize her point, Bathurst-Francis showed a video clip in which a male teen revealed a total of 12 firearms he had concealed with the help of baggy clothes, including a full-size shotgun and an Uzi-type semi-automatic weapon. (That clip was provided to The Mercury and can be viewed on our Web site -- www.pottsmerc.com)
"Well, a picture is certainly worth a thousand words," School Board President Barry Robertson said Thursday in an apparent effort to break the uneasy quiet which followed the showing of the clip.
The tragic school shooting in Lancaster and a shooting incident in which a 14-year-old shot at a Pottstown student’s father on Franklin Street shortly after school was dismissed have put the subject of school security on the front burner in Pottstown.
But beyond the safety benefits, Bathurst-Francis said she expects to see an improvement in attitude and self-esteem among the student body.
School Board member Cathy Skitko said she spoke with a colleague in the Reading school system who told her after a similar policy was implemented there, "the positive difference in behavior and demeanor was overwhelming and dramatic."
"She also told me, don’t phase (the new policy) in, just do it," Skitko said.
"I think this will really unify our district," said Bathurst-Francis.
No date has yet been set for the school board vote on the policy.
©The Mercury 2006