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McALLEN The McAllen school board held off on a decision Thursday morning on whether to implement uniforms.

Instead, it opted to adopt a stricter dress code for the 2007 08 school year.

But the Pharr San Juan Alamo school board decided Wednesday night to require school issued shirts for Austin and San Juan middle schools, and Buckner and Napper elementary schools, as well as a new unnamed elementary campus going up on the north side of Dicker Road in Pharr, starting in August. The district has been phasing in uniforms at its elementary and middle schools.

We are firm believers that uniforms help in all areas, both academically and in discipline and showing pride for your schools, outgoing PSJA schools Superintendent Arturo Guajardo said.

So we definitely feel that what our board did is a blessing for us.

Uniforms are not a new concept in area schools. Some districts that require students to dress alike include Edinburg, Hidalgo and Valley View, while Mission and Weslaco only require uniforms in their alternative programs.

Jo Murphy, a Field Experience Program coordinator in the University of North Texas Department of Teacher Education and Administration in Denton, said uniforms are good to use in areas where there are gang affiliations and dramatic differences in family income levels.

She said school districts must research uniform policies and educate residents about them or face the likelihood of public opposition to the use of uniforms.

I think the shock value idea has moved away from this subject, Murphy said.

When it was first brought to the public school arena about 20 to 25 years ago, most of us were aghast. That was something private schools did.

The McAllen school board did not want to require uniforms this fall because it felt area businesses would not have enough time to get the required polo style shirts and khaki pants for parents to buy.

Schools Superintendent Yolanda Chapa said she wanted to bring the matter back to the board in the fall with the hope of getting approval for the 2008 09 school year.

Chapa said she did not want uniforms to go into use mid year because it would mean hardship for parents forced to purchase regular clothes as well as uniforms for their children.

Travis Middle School eighth grader Glenda Torres, 15, said having uniforms would eliminate matching shoes to earrings and, for some, ruin fashion reputations.

You want to look nicely dressed, she said.

The board members present at Thursdays meeting unanimously voted to require an updated dress code starting in the fall. Board member Ricardo Chapa was absent and did not vote on the matter.

Under the decision, the district will ban shorts and skorts in high schools, and all campuses will prohibit flip flops, beach sandals, hats, halters and spaghetti strapped shirts, ripped clothing, attire advertising sex, alcohol and gangs, baggy clothing, tongue rings and other items.

The girls want to look a little more mature than they should, Garza Elementary School Principal Katie Shults said.

Grace Grazier, 13, a Travis Middle School eighth grader, said some of the banned items can distract from learning. She said she does not like midriff bearing shirts and too short shorts.

Expressing individuality should come from personality and not clothing, Grazier said.

Flip flops sparked some discussion among board members who said they have children who wear the comfortable footwear as much as possible.

John Wilde, the McAllen districts coordinator for student support services, said there were safety concerns with flip flops and banning them would prepare students more for what to wear when looking for jobs.

Cathey Middle School Principal Jose Jay A. Gonzalez said flip flops would hinder students during evacuations and lockdowns.

We want it to be an efficient process, he said.

Students also are required under the new policy to wear appropriate undergarments and belts and must have their shirts tucked in at all times.

If anything, the parents will have to buy the perfect clothing, board member Mark Kent said about the new dress demands.

Board member Conrado Alvarado said he wanted the board to remember young elementary students who might have difficulty learning how to keep their shirts tucked in.

And he said there could be concerns with staff helping students arrange their clothing.

Chapa said requiring students to tuck in their shirts would teach them and parents early on about proper attire.
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