Birmingham Students Return With Uniforms Optional

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Sun Valley Elementary School teacher Harrison Ellison welcomes students and gives directions on the first day of school. Many students opted to wear regular clothes instead of uniforms, which had been required more than 20 years.

Source: Sherrel Wheeler Stewart,WBHM 90.3 FM

Birmingham students went back to school today. And this year’s school scene looked different from head to toe. The school system decided last month to drop its longstanding uniform requirement. That move brought mixed reactions from parents, retailers and students.

For the first time in more than 20 years, khaki, black and blue pants and  the blue or white shirts are optional. Birmingham students can go to school wearing whatever they like – within reason — just as long as their pants don’t sag and the skirts and shorts are not … too short. Boys still have to wear belts. And no open-toed shoes or hoodies are allowed.

Some parents like Lachelle Adams say they don’t have a problem with the policy. She just fears the change may have a negative impact.

“That’s going to promote some bullying I feel, because there’s going to be a large number of kids dressed out of uniform,” Adams says. “And they can look at a kid who is dressed in uniform and say, ‘Hey, you must be poor. Your mom can’t afford to buy you regular clothes?’”

Adams says she had already bought uniforms for her son when the school system announced the dress policy change.  The timing, she says, wasn’t good for parents. She returned some items.

School officials say they heard from parents and students who wanted a new dress code policy. They announced the new guidelines in July ahead of the state sales tax holiday weekend when many families make their back-to-school purchases. Meanwhile, stores are stuck with lots of uniform inventory.

I’Asia Powell started 8th grade today at Smith Middle School. She shopped recently for shoes with her family in Crestwood. The shoes she tried on were powder blue sneakers with a pink bow. Last year, those shoes would have been off limits for school wear.

She says the change in policy doesn’t make much difference for her.

“I like wearing uniforms every day,” she says. “But it really don’t matter to me, ‘cause I go to school to learn, not all that other stuff.”