Wisconsin Dells School Board Member Proposing Uniforms

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The look of one local school district could change if the board trends toward uniforms in school. A board member in Wisconsin Dells has raised the issue, but it's dividing students.

Board member Jesse Weaver is a former school liaison officer. He lists a number of reasons to support uniforms. Staff could identify someone who's out of place. Uniforms also might lessen the competition among students, and make it easier for staff to identify a dress code violation, but some students prefer to stand out from the crowd.

"I'd rather wear what I'm comfortable wearing and not look like everyone else," Dells student Nicole Gantz says.

But what one student considers fashionable, another might consider inappropriate. A school board member wants to take the guess work out of what qualifies as a violation.

"Everybody makes their own judgment; not as cut and dry as when I was a student," District Administrator Charles Whitsell says.

Students these days cannot wear hats indoors at Wisconsin Dells High School. No cleavage or midriffs, or clothing that references drugs, alcohol or weapons, among other things are allowed.

"We don't want to take away their freedom of expression, but we want it to be a positive experience for kids in school. We talk about negative, bullying, and to be honest, picking on clothing a student is wearing is a source of a kind of negative going on in schools," Whitsell says.

Some students agree, saying kids compete in the hallway as if they're on a fashion runway.

"I think it will reduce more of the cliques and drama that girls have between each other," student Whitney Cox says.

"I don't think there's competition, but if you look at someone, judging by what they're wearing, you judge by who they are," Gantz says.

"We have close to 40 percent of our students who qualify for a free or reduced lunch in our school; that's probably a surprise to a lot of people," Whitsell says.

Whitsell is open to the idea of uniforms, which he says could save students money and time while putting the primary focus back on the books.

"Some of the information I looked at talks about discipline, improving attendance," Whitsell says, "Some claim it results in a better focus on academics and student achievement scores."

"If you have uniforms, you're gonna take a lot of individuality away from students, which I think it important," senior Mike Podoll says.

"The one thing, you wouldn't have to pick out what to wear in the morning," senior Sara Wollner says.

Whitsell and others want community input because he says it's ultimately up to parents what students wear to school. The issue is up for discussion at the school board meeting on October 16.

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