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Columbus Public High School Students Have Mixed Feelings About Uniforms

As Columbus Africentric Early College students wait for the bus to go home, it's easy to tell where they go to school. That's because they're all wearing the same thing: black, purple or white shirts with tan or black pants. They are the only high school students in the Columbus Public School district who must wear a uniform. Principal, Bob Murphy, credits parents for the new policy.

"They felt students were more focused on education, their attitudes were better when they were in the elementary school and uniforms was a big part of that. Again, that was the first conversation we had and it was decided that it was something they really wanted to do. And I said, well, great, we'll make it happen," Murphy said.

Murphy said while parents wanted uniforms, some students were defiant.

"They fought it like crazy. We don't want to wear uniforms! And I'd say well, that's not a problem. You know, it's your choice. Either you wear the uniform or you go some place else. And parents were going: they're not going any place else so they're going to wear the uniform," Murphy said.

15-year-old Kierra Jones, who's in the ninth grade, dislikes the school uniforms. Jones believes the uniform policy was put in place to help get rid of socio-economic differences among students, but she said it does not work. "I don't like 'em. Why? Because, it's like, it's like; we had uniforms when we was in elementary school. Okay? And then we come to high school and we expect to have freedom. And basically we don't have it because we're wearing uniforms. We don't all want to look alike, we want to look different. Because uniform's not going to change everybody's attitude toward how they act toward everybody. I mean you can wear white and black and purple and tan, but it's not going to make your grades better," Jones said.

Kalila Carmon practiced her rapping while waiting for the bus after school. Carmon is also in the ninth grade. But she thinks the uniforms have made her learning environment better. Carmon also said getting ready for school is easier.

"I think the uniforms are a terrific idea. Because for the fact that, you know, so we don't have to go through it every day to try to find something to wear. And the fact that it will keep kids focused on doing their work other than really focusing on what each other has on. Because that's what they really do these days," Carmon said.

Columbus Public Schools superintendent Gene Harris wants high school students in uniforms. A district committee made up of parents, teachers, students and administrators, is expected to make a recommendation before the start of the next school year. Harris said the committee will examine uniform policies in other Ohio urban school districts.

"There're just a variety of ways that it could be approached. But it's one of the reasons that we put a broad based committee together and not just decided to do this on a unilateral basis," Harris said.

A primary concern is whether students will comply with the uniform policy. Principal Murphy said already at Africentric students come up with all kinds of explanations for not being properly dressed.

"We get all kinds of excuses. Well so and so said we were going to have a dress down day. Nope, doesn't fly. You know, or you know, my teacher said we were going to go on a field trip and said we didn't have to wear the uniform. No, sorry. You know, they're kids," Murphy said.

Murphy said even though the policy has been in effect less than a year, 90 to 95 percent of the Africentric high schoolers come to school following the dress code. That's a good sign for district officials who want to persuade students and parents of the benefits of uniforms.