Farmersville considers school uniforms

By Jamie Hunt

At a Farmersville School Board Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, Narce Ozuna, Counselor of Healthy Start in Farmersville, helped translate a letter written by Merced Santiago and her family to the Farmersville School Board regarding strong support for school uniforms from many Hispanic families in the community.

The letter, endorsed by 200 families, stated that gangs are an everyday problem in the Farmersville community, and that lack of knowledge from parents and guardians about the certain signs of dress and color coding used by gangs is a great part of the problem.

Parents want to protect their children from gang influence, yet they feel that their lack of knowledge about gang symbols prevents them from using discipline to make sure that their children are properly dressed. Children wear colors and symbols on their clothes that open them up to gang problems.

The letter also stated that the discipline of wearing uniforms will help enforce discipline in school. A proper school uniform includes: A jacket, white shirt, skirts, pants or shorts, knee socks, black shoes in the classic colors of brown, blue or grey.

The families also contended that academic problems at school are exacerbated for children by the concern of what to wear. Discrimination between what students wear influences the groups and students as a whole.

Board member John Vasquez said that uniforms were under consideration by the district.

In a Farmersville Unified School District Board Meeting on Jan. 10, school board members, administrators and the public discussed gang activities in Farmersville schools, after the arrest and detention of the men who shot an 8-year-old boy on Dec. 25, critically wounding him in the leg.

Superintendent Janet Jones said, &#8220A full-time probation officer has been hired by the district and Helen Bauer has written a letter of support for the Tulare County G.R.E.A.T. program.”

Janie Hernandez, secretary at Hester Elementary for kindergarten through second grade, recalls uniforms being worn in 2000 and earlier. She said the main problem was that parents did not want to enforce the uniform code and signed waivers against the code more often than not.

The school district had uniforms at Hester Elementary school and Snowden Elementary School in the past for about three years, according to Jones.

She said the uniforms make more of an impact on younger students in the prevention of gang affiliation. The younger, the better, when it comes to getting students used to an idea.

Yolanda Juarez, attendance clerk at Snowden Elementary, said uniforms were being worn at the second- and third-grade school between 2001 and 2004.

&#8220The Women's League of Visalia would supply the uniforms for students whose parents couldn't afford to buy them,” Juarez said.

&#8220The league would even come out to the school and measure students so the uniform would fit properly. They would completely outfit the student with the uniform, even down to the toiletry kit bag or barettes for the girls.”

Juarez said that many parents at the school incurred the one time cost and bought the uniforms for their children but an increasing amount of parents refused to comply to the schools uniform code and signed waivers so their children did not have to wear uniforms.

Snowden's Principal Randy Degra said, &#8220I'll support the school district any way they want to go. Uniforms would help with dress code issues, if we can encourage the kids to wear uniforms. Here in California parents can sign that uniform waiver, but the uniforms would help to a certain degree. If we could encourage the students to make the right choices with right behavior, that is the way to go.”

Helen Bauer, assistant superintendent of curriculum/projects, has written a letter from the FUSD in support of the Tulare County Probation Department which is applying for the G.R.E.A.T. grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The acronym G.R.E.A.T. stands for Gang Resistance, Education, and Training which is a skills based curriculum designed to prevent gang involvement. A specially trained probation officer would present the program to fourth – seventh graders.

Fourth and fifth graders would attend a 30-45 minute presentation once a week for 6 weeks. Sixth and seventh graders would have weekly 45-60 minute lessons for 13 weeks. The Probation Department would provide a parent information night.

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