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Fillmore High Considering Uniforms

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

School administrators are considering a dress code that would require school uniforms for the 850 students at Fillmore Senior High School along with the district’s kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

If approved, the 3,408-student Fillmore Unified School District would create Ventura County’s only high school campus where ninth- through 12th-graders would forgo their fashion choices in exchange for a standardized uniform.

But Fillmore Junior High officials have decided to consider a stricter dress code rather than mandatory uniforms. Based on surveys received from 82% of the school’s parents, a majority supported uniforms, but their number fell slightly short of a two-thirds majority that school leaders had required.

Fillmore High officials have already collected about 60% of the 800 surveys sent to parents in early October. Nearly three out of every five respondents favor uniforms, which Principal Lynn Johnson said is no surprise.

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“I listen a lot to the community and this is what I think I’m hearing. . . . A lot of parents are reading. They read that some schools [with uniforms] kindergarten through eighth grade are finding better attendance, discipline situations, better grades and more focus on academics.”

But in the comments section of the three-question survey, several parents suggested that uniforms would be more appropriate for younger students.

A growing number of elementary and junior high schools in Ventura and Los Angeles counties--including several schools in the Oxnard and Rio districts--now require uniforms, but high school students are typically excluded from such policies.

One Fillmore High parent called the idea of mandatory uniforms a “misguided attempt at social engineering and family management” that wastes already strained educational resources.

Replies on the survey by Spanish-speaking parents showed an overwhelming support of mandatory uniforms. Some parents wrote that identical clothing would help erase distinctions between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Unlike in other districts, where arguments in favor of uniforms have centered on reducing violence, Fillmore parents seem more interested in reducing peer pressure, administrators said.

Parents think it’s easier to have kids wear the same thing every day and there is “no competing with someone with $50 tennis shoes while [yours] are from Payless,” said Steven Colvard, principal of San Cayetano School, which surveyed the parents of its 800 kindergarten through third-grade students.

Of the 368 surveys San Cayetano parents have returned so far, 324--or seven out of every eight respondents--said yes to uniforms.

At Fillmore High, students on campus are split on the issue of uniforms, sometimes even within the same family.

Senior Karen Sowell argues against uniforms, saying that “clothes represent a person’s personality.” But her sister Laureena, a freshman, maintains that an individual is the same with or without a uniform.

Laureena said she has witnessed incidents in which people are judged by what they wear and are ignored if they wear something odd. But a great benefit of a uniform policy, she said, is that “it won’t take so long to get ready in the morning.”

Junior Nick Flannery agreed that students sometimes judge each other according to appearance, but he still would not recommend uniforms as the solution.

“I think people should be able to wear whatever they want,” said Nick, who was sporting a pair of Nike shoes, socks pulled up to the calves, knee-length shorts and an oversized Windbreaker.

“If you look at the way people dress, it expresses the way they are. And if you have uniforms, everyone will be the same,” said Nick, echoing the sentiment of other students.

Fillmore High officials won’t make any decisions until they receive at least 75%, or 638 survey responses, Johnson said. Then a committee of parents and staff members will decide whether to institute a stricter dress-code policy or uniform policy.

In the meantime, Ventura’s Balboa Middle School is surveying district parents. Balboa officials said they must receive 75% support before they would institute a uniform policy next fall.


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