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. Officials will gather comments and then report back to the School Board in the coming weeks.
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Henrico Schools to host College and Career Night Nov. 1


Students of all ages are invited to investigate options for life after high school at Henrico County Public Schools’ 2017 College and Career Night. The annual countywide event offers a chance to talk with representatives of more than 100 universities, colleges and professional programs, as well as about 50 representatives of career options such as businesses and branches of the military.

College and Career Night will take place Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Ave. > Read more.

Business in brief


Henrico-based nonprofit Commonwealth Autism recently received the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Seal of Excellence for successfully completing its accreditation program. Commonwealth Autism voluntarily opened itself to analysis by a peer review team during the last 18 months that examined the organization’s compliance with the “Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.” These standards cover areas such as: mission, strategy and evaluation; leadership – board, staff and volunteers; legal compliance and ethics; finance and operations; resource development; and public awareness, engagement and advocacy. Commonwealth Autism was one of six organizations in the Richmond region to be recognized and the first in the region to achieve full accreditation. In addition to this accreditation, Commonwealth Autism is recognized as an Accredited Charity with the Richmond Better Business Bureau and holds accreditation from the Code of Ethics for Behavioral Organizations (COEBO). > Read more.

Purify Infrared Sauna opens at GreenGate


Purify Infrared Sauna recently opened its second Henrico location at GreenGate Shopping Center in Short Pump.

Owner Mary Woodbridge opened her first Purify location on Patterson Avenue in July 2015. The new store is located at 301 Maltby Boulevard, Suite C, west of Short Pump Town Center. > Read more.

Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27


The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair


Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

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The Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place at 10 a.m. at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook. There will be one- and three-mile route options. All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer's further the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association. To register, visit http://act.alz.org/2017Richmond. Full text

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