Henrico County VA
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Draft policy on school uniforms advancing

Henrico County Public Schools officials are finalizing a policy that would allow individual schools in the county to propose voluntary or mandatory uniform policies for their students.

The draft plan is being created as the School Board’s response to inquiries from several elementary school principals who are interested in establishing their own uniform programs.

The draft outlines a number of criteria that a school would need to meet in order to implement such policies. It requires that a school considering uniform policies:

• send educational materials home to parents and provide material on its website; • hold at least two information sessions to solicit thoughts from parents;

• inform parents of all plans and activities through electronic notification systems;

• provide a cost analysis of such options for families to review;

• receive endorsement of the plan from at least 85 percent of its professional staff members;

• survey at least 85 percent of families and receive endorsement from at least 85 percent of those.

A handful of elementary schools in the eastern portion of the county currently have voluntary uniform policies. Most have participation from more than 70 percent of students, according to HCPS Director of Elementary Education Pam Bell – in part because of incentive-based rewards for students who participate.

The success of the programs has caused some of those principals to inquire about how to consider mandatory policies, while principals at other schools have asked about voluntary policies, she said.

There are a number of perceived benefits to uniform policies, Deputy Superintendent Pat Kinlaw told the School Board during a Jan. 13 work session. Uniforms may increase student safety; help bridge socio-economic gaps in some schools; promote good student behavior and inclusiveness; allow students to concentrate more on their work; and enhance the learning environment.

But the use of uniforms also could reduce student individuality and freedom of expression, opponents of such policies argue.

During the past several months, school officials have met with focus groups of parents, teachers and principals from each of the schools that currently have voluntary programs, Kinlaw said.

They’ve also reviewed uniform policies from other school divisions and reviewed U.S. and Virginia Department of Education guidelines, as well as Code of Virginia language, he said.

By establishing a general policy to outline the steps individuals schools must take in order to invoke uniform policies, the School Board would protect itself legally and would not need to set a blanket voluntary or mandatory policy countywide, School Board attorney Melissa Velasquez told the board in October.

The general policy also would protect the School Board from lawsuits related to First Amendment rights, Velasquez said.

“We think that it’s neutral enough that it would survive a First Amendment challenge,” she said.

The draft policy suggests that any uniform policies that are adopted begin at the start of a new school year, to allow for a smooth transition and preparation process beginning in April and leading up to the first day of school in September.

Students at any school that adopts a mandatory uniform policy would be permitted to transfer to a nearby school that does not have such a policy, Kinlaw said. Families would be responsible for transporting their students to the new school.

A large number of transfer requests would be unlikely, he said, because many of the students who didn’t endorse the plan likely would adhere to it anyway, rather than switch schools. Research conducted by HCPS officials of other districts that utilize mandatory policies concluded as much, he said. Bell said that Henrico has witnessed the same scenario among elementary students whose parents initially opposed voluntary policies but now send their children to school in uniforms anyway.

Adoption of a mandatory policy by a school would require penalties for students who did not wear their uniforms. The draft policy suggests that first-time offenders receive a change of clothes from an in-school “clothes closet” of uniforms and a call to their parents or guardians. Second and third offenders would be picked up by their parents and taken home, and fourth-time offenders would be reassigned to schools without uniforms.

Though the draft uniform policy is intended for elementary schools, it would be available to middle schools or high schools as well. School Board members theorized that none of the county’s middle or high schools would come close to meeting the 85 percent threshold necessary to enact a policy, however.

The draft policy will be available for review and public comment for 30 days on the school system’s website – http://www.henrico.k12.va.us Offic.ials will gather comments and then report back to the School Board in the coming weeks.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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The University of Richmond’s annual Spider spring game will be played at Robins Stadium at 1 p.m. Admission is free. The inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt, open to children 13… Full text

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