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Officials: Uniforms improve conduct

The 2009-2010 school year marks a new era for Jemison Middle School. Effective Aug. 10, the school’s dress code requires uniforms.

Jemison Middle is the second school in the county to adopt a uniform policy, behind Jemison High School. The two policies are basically the same except the high school allows students to wear jeans on Fridays, but JMS does not.

“We’re just trying to stay consistent,” said JMS Assistant Principal David Seale.

The policy basically states that shirts must be collared, plain and button-up, with no emblems except on shirts purchased through the school. Shirts must be white, navy or gray and must be tucked in.

Pants or shorts must be khaki, navy or black with no labels. Pants must fit at the natural waistline, and shorts must be no shorter than knee length. Belts are also required.

Seale said he has seen a “huge difference” in student conduct between this year and previous years.

“Our belief is when students dress like students, they act like students. When they dress like they’re going to a party, they act like they are going to a party,” he said.

Principal Mark Knight estimated the number of offenses has decreased by 40 or 50 percent from last year. Granted, just a few weeks have passed, but other schools consulted by Jemison Middle reported favorable results after three years of a uniform policy, Seale said.

And students seem to like the uniforms too.

“They make us seem like a whole,” seventh grader Jordan Clark said.

“I think there’s not a lot of teasing because we look the same,” added classmate Delaney Lowery.

While Amber Deavers, another seventh grader, said uniforms could get hot in summer weather, she is learning to adjust.

“At first I didn’t think I would like them, but you’ve got to learn to live with what you’ve got to live with,” she said.

There were complaints at first, mainly that the uniforms didn’t allow self expression or that they could get expensive. But most have found that uniform clothes are significantly cheaper than the designer clothes often worn by students.

“I love it,” said parent Christy Higgins, who has children in both Jemison Middle and Jemison High schools. “We don’t have to think [about what to wear] in the morning time.”

Teachers also had to make changes. Faculty members are required to wear either uniform clothes or better, such as a button-up shirt and tie, or a dress.

The school is still working out a few kinks in the policy, such as the requirements for jackets. The primary concern seems to be the expense of matching jackets.

“We don’t want a kid out by a bus stop when it’s raining and not wear a jacket because they’re afraid of being outside of the uniforms,” Seale said. “But at the same time, we need to be consistent.”

The policy can be viewed on the school Web site at www.chilton.k12.al.us/JMS/uni.html.