Majority of Dade Schools Back Uniforms for Students

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A sizable majority of Dade County, Fla., schools will require students to wear uniforms next fall, according to preliminary results of a weeklong vote by school parents.

Of the 96 schools where votes had been tallied last week, 90 supported mandatory uniforms. Another 90 of the district's 300 schools already require them; results from the remaining schools were not yet available. Browse Education Week's 'Web Connection' Your Best On-line Source for Education Products and Services

"I am not surprised by these encouraging results," said Demetrio Perez Jr., the school board's vice chairman.

Supporters argue that uniforms ease peer social pressure in schools, provide a measure of equality and safety, and help cut families' clothing costs. Mr. Perez described uniforms as "the most critical issue" in a platform of 25 initiatives that he proposed on his way to winning a seat in last November's school board elections.

Even in schools that adopt mandatory policies, parents who oppose uniforms can meet with school administrators and sign waivers to excuse their children from the program.

New Voting Rules

The 340,000-student district, the nation's fourth largest, has been a big part of the boom in public school uniforms. ("Retailers Size Up Growth in Uniform Business," April 2, 1997.)

Dade County has allowed schools to adopt their own uniform policies since 1995. In March, the school board made it easier for schools to require uniforms by reducing the necessary approval level from 75 percent of parents to 50 percent plus one.

Earlier this month, the district distributed ballots to every school that had not already approved a mandatory-uniform policy, including the 66 schools where parents had previously voted to make uniforms optional.

The ballots were sent home along with students' report cards. Voting was held April 14-18, with parents receiving as many votes as they have children in a school. Unreturned surveys were counted as votes against the uniforms.

Eighty-four of the 96 schools posting results so far were elementary schools, all but six of which supported mandatory uniforms. Twelve middle schools also approved a uniform policy.

Ballot tallies had not been announced at any of the district's high schools, where support for uniforms has been weakest.

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