Henrico County VA

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.
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Community

Architect of World Trade Center Memorial to speak in Henrico


Michael Arad, the architect of the World Trade Center Memorial, will be the keynote speaker for The 2016 Adolf-Adams JCC Forum on Sat., Jan. 30, 2016 at 7:30 p.m., at the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Henrico.

Arad’s “Reflecting Absence” architectural design was selected from more than 5,000 competitive entries as the template for the Memorial’s construction in New York City. During the forum, Arad will discuss the significance and symbolism of the design, as well as his inspiration. The event, which is a highlight of the Weinstein JCC’s Patron of the Arts series, is open to the public > Read more.

Environmental Film Festival planned for February


The Sixth Annual RVA Environmental Film Festival (RVA EFF) will be held Feb. 1-7, 2016 at various locations, including in Henrico County.

A partnership of The Enrichmond Foundation, Capital Region Land Conservancy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Falls of the James Group - Sierra Club, the festival will feature a number of insightful films designed to raise awareness of environmental issues relative to all residents of the planet and Richmond citizens in particular.

A detailed schedule will be released at a time closer to the festival, but the popular children's portion has been set for Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Start celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with Susan Greenbaum at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. She will present “An Evening of Love Songs.” Other fun events this weekend include Henrico Rec & Parks’ 30th annual One Act Showcase; “The Lego Movie” playing at the Henrico Theatre (tickets are only $!); and Robin and Linda Williams who will be performing at the Shady Grove Coffeehouse. And homeowners will really appreciate the free Home Improvement Seminar taking place at Harvie ES. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.






 

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