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Official rationale

Updated, Dec. 25, 2016, by Jamara McGarry

After I spoke at the Dec. 14, 2016, Local School Council meeting about disliking the uniform, one of the parents on the council, Edeau Long-Oden, responded that the uniforms are for safety. I emailed her, asking her what she meant. Her reply follows:

Hi Jamara,

When we say safety… we, being parents and staff, mean we know who belongs to the Steinmetz family and who doesn’t. When I drop off my children in the morning and everyone looks consistent with the Steinmetz colors and uniforms I know who belongs to our school community. That’s how I know our children who are coming to school to be educated from the vagrant rouges who may be at the school to pose a threat. Example, if I see a group of children being harassed, jumped, bullied etc. with our uniform on I feel more privy to intervene.

Another example: people freely roaming the building to either cause mass harm or ruckus in the building…well, if there is no uniform, no ID, they’d tend to stick out just a little more as opposed to blending in with the student body and causing mass destruction, without it.

Nothing is 100% fool-proof, but if it saves lives and makes it easier for our children to be identified, I’m all for it. Not to mention the distraction and senseless bullying of whose wearing what. This provides an even advantage for all children to come to school and focus on your education and future.

I hope this helps with clarity on how we want our students safe.

 

The following article, with additional rationale for the Steinmetz uniform policy other LSC members, was published Nov. 3, 2016

By Agape Alfaro, Elise Guillen, Alina Qureshy, Jade Aguilar and Erika Carrasco

In an attempt to communicate the decision-making process and the rationale for the new uniform requirement, the Star interviewed the Steinmetz principal, current Local School Council (LSC) president and teachers on the Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC)

Interview with Principal Stephen Ngo on Sept. 26

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Newspaper club students interviewed Principal Stephen Ngo in August (above) and September. The August interview was for a feature in the Star’s Sept. 2016 issue.  (Photo by Ms. Sharon Schmidt.)

Star: Why did the uniform policy change?

Mr. Ngo: Because there was a feeling that old policy had become too lax and students weren’t adhering to it and adults weren’t enforcing it.

Star: Why was the uniform policy implemented in the first place?

Mr. Ngo: The old uniform policy was a topic among LSC members and they wanted a more stringent and clear cut policy, because the old one was confusing.

Star: Why not drop it?

Mr. Ngo: You shouldn’t just drop it because it’s not working. An overwhelming number of students are complying with the new policy. There are no complaints from teachers. Numerous teachers told me that they like the policy.

Star: What is your feeling?

Mr. Ngo: There’s a higher level of attention among the students.

Star Why is Santana the vendor selling the shirts?

Mr. Ngo: I don’t want to be in the shirt selling business, I want to be in the education businesses. We lost $1.6 million from the school budget this year.

Star: What if a girl is on her period and stains her khakis?

Mr. Ngo: We’ve been taking it by a case by case basis so students can come to us about concerns.

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LSC president Vanessa Valentin responds to student concerns at the Sept. 14 meeting. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

Interview with LSC President Vanessa Valentin

The Star interviewed Ms. Valentin a few weeks after the September LSC meeting, where she had responded to students who spoke during public participation about the uniform.

In the interview with the Star she said the decision to change the uniform was made by previous LSC during the 2015-16 school year. She said she doesn’t know why they decided on khaki pants.

Ms. Valentin’s father, Jose Quiles, was the LSC president last year.

“As a parent I support the uniform,” Ms. Valentin said. She has a son who is a sophomore at Steinmetz. She graduated from Lincoln Park High School.

Ms. Valentin said that the uniform feels safer because of the identification with other students. She said it saves money because it’s cheaper than buying designer clothes. It makes no fashion statement and there are no arguments with her son, she said.

She said having a uniform policy is not a big deal because other schools have uniforms.

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Students buy uniform shirts from Santana’s in the first week of school.

She said students’ voices matter and that the LSC needs connection with students. She said that she sees “students owning the uniform policy.” She said that students look great.

Ms. Valentin said that it hurts that students are so upset about uniform. A student called her a name one morning, she said.

“I’m supporting it to be a mom, not a bad person,” she said.

The Star asked Ms. Valentin about the Belmont Cragin business Santana selling the shirts.

Ms. Valentin said that it costs the school no money to require a uniform because Steinmetz is using a third party. She said she didn’t know how much money Santana makes selling the uniforms.

She said, “After 13 shirts are bought, Santana gives back one to the school.”

Second interview with Ms. Valentin includes gift of uniform for reporter

Ms. Valentin talked with reporter Jade Aguilar again on Oct. 20, after Ms. Valentin texted, suggesting an additional meeting.

When they met she gave Jade a long-sleeved Steinmetz uniform polo, a regular short sleeve polo, a Steinmetz sweater and joggers, which Jade felt was very kind.

Ms. Valentin said she is here to work for the students, that students are her first priority. She said she wanted to meet with students who had responded to the Star survey that they did not like the uniform. (The Star surveyed 690 students, 665 indicated that it isn’t their first choice.) She said she was willing to meet with students in Room 122.

“I am not the uniform Nazi,” Ms. Valentin said. “I want to hear kids.”

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LSC president Vanessa Valentin holds up a sweatshirt created by Santana. For a while, students were told that the Steinmetz hoodies they bought last year were not allowed. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

She said she wants to get student involvement. She wants to “change the narrative,” the way that we see this school, she said.

Ms. Valentin also said that she would like to showcase the diversity of the school in an assembly to promote pride in individual’s heritage.

Interview with Joe Santana

The owner of Santana’s, Joe Santana, told the Star that he doesn’t make that much profit.

He didn’t say how much money he made on each shirt.

“Last week I lost money,” he said. “I don’t always make a profit.”

LSC student representatives spoke out in the past

In both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, students and teachers raised the issue of ending the school uniform with the principal and at the LSC meetings.

After Taft, Foreman, Clemente, Roosevelt and North Grand High Schools dropped their uniform requirement in 2014, LSC student representative Emily Santiago reported the story for the Star. She also analyzed uniform requirements along with school ratings and found that the best schools (at that time rated Level 1 or 2 on a 3 point scale) did not require uniforms.

Although the story laid out the facts, she said that the LSC was upset at the idea that there was a correlation. In addition, she said that when LSC parent members saw the story they were upset that their views weren’t presented. She invited them to write letters to the editor or to make comments on the online story.

In March 2016, student LSC representative Emony Tate shared student opinions about the uniform policy in her student report, which she published in the March-April 2016 Star.

“Get rid of them,” she said. “Uniforms do not decrease violence. They do not lower the suspension rate.”

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Jose Quiles was the LSC president during the 2015-16 school year when Steinmetz gave Santana a contract to be the vendor. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

Teachers take up the issue, advise abolishing the uniform

Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC) members discussed abolishing uniforms and just having a dress code policy when they met in the March and April of 2016.

Teachers said that having no uniforms would save money, free up discipline team resources, support a positive student climate and lead to better community perception.The group noted that most top rated schools do not have uniforms and uniforms are now perceived to be for the “bad” schools.

Discussion led to the suggestion of a survey. Of 46 responses (teaching, counseling, PSRP, security) 61 percent were in favor of abolishing the uniform requirement. (Last year the uniform was much less narrow than this year. Students could wear jeans or other pants and any Steinmetz related shirt).

At the April 14 LSC meeting teacher Michelle Mottram presented the PPLC information.

Ms. Valentin suggested the Parent Advisory Council could survey parents. Mr. Quiles said that the uniforms do not have to come out of the school budget because they are working with a vendor that would supply uniforms on “consignment”. The vendor would sell uniforms directly to the students at orientation. Mr. Quiles said a contract has already been signed with this vendor.

There was a discussion about who would pay for uniforms for students who could not afford them, forget to wear them, or transferred in.

Another parent on the council, Ms.Garcia, said there should be a zero tolerance policy towards uniform; if you aren’t in uniform at the door you don’t come in. There was much discussion about why the policy was enacted 16 years ago – gangs, bullying, and security issues. Mr. Quiles said the newly elected LSC could revisit the issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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