News

Change your clothes, students

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

The Federal Way School Board voted Tuesday to make a student uniform mandatory at Valhalla Elementary School.

When the change the change is implemented at the start of the next school year, Valhalla will be the fourth elementary school in the district with a strict mandatory dress code, following Mark Twain, Sunnycrest and Totem .

The measure was approved by four of the five board members. Ed Barney was the only member who voted against the proposal. He said he would strongly support the uniform proposal if it had about 80 percent approval from parents, rather than the 65 percent it received.

Board member Bob Millen strongly supported the proposal.

“I have yet to read literature that demonstrates that school uniforms have a negative impact on academics,” Millen said.

Board member Earl VanDorien Jr. also approved the proposal. He told Valhalla Elementary principal Paula Rogers that he was impressed with how well-thought out the dress code discussion process was.

The board members who approved the dress code proposal agreed with Valhalla teachers’ rationale that a uniform dress code will help students focus on academics rather than outward appearance and social class barriers in school. They also agreed that the dress code will instill a sense of community and school pride for students and will encourage students to feel safe and respected at school.

Rogers added that parents and teachers worked together on the proposal, meeting twice to discuss the pros and cons of the dress code. The meetings were in both English and Spanish. School officials had mailed surveys to parents and a letter outlining their rationale for uniforms. After several meetings and mailings, 98 percent of the families voted on the uniform proposal, with a 65 percent approval. Valhalla officials had decided beforehand that a minimum 65 percent from parents was necessary for the proposal to be brought for approval to the board.

Heidi Bohman, a teacher at Valhalla who was involved in the dress code discussions, strongly supports the uniform dress code. She said that in the long run, it is cheaper for parents to buy uniforms for their kids than to try to stay current on the latest fashion trends. Bohman added that Federal Way Public Schools provides an “opt-out” option: Parents who are strongly opposed to the new dress code may ask the district to transfer their kids to another school.

Here is the breakdown of what students will wear:

• Boys will wear solid white or navy blue shirts –– either Oxford-style button-down fronts with collars or polo-style with a collar. Long or short sleeves are acceptable. They can also wear turtle necks and crew neck sweatshirts or sweaters without zippers or hoods. Cardigan sweaters with button down fronts are acceptable as well.

For pants, boys must wear solid navy blue or khaki slacks or shorts. Pants must be hemmed, worn at the waist, and no more than one size larger than the waist. Shorts can be no shorter than a couple of inches above the knee.

• Girls have a choice of solid navy blue or khaki skirts, skorts or jumpers. Hemlines must be no shorter than fingerip length when arms are at their sides. Skirts and skorts must be worn at the waist and no more than one size larger than the waist.

• For both boys and girls, shoes must have closed toes. Heels can be no longer than one inch long. Shoelaces must be tied. Socks must be solid white, navy blue or khaki. Girls may wear skin-tone pantyhose. White or navy blue tights or knee-highs are also accepted.

The change will be permanent.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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