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Roosevelt HS sets uniform dress code

The dress code, which consists of primarily a

The dress code, which consists of primarily a combination of Khaki shorts, pants, or skirts, along with royal blue or white shirts, is in its first year and is even receiving the active support from many of the teachers and administration. (Sept. 6, 2012) Credit: Johnny Milano

Tank tops and saggy jeans are out. Khaki slacks and knee-length skirts are in.

Roosevelt High School has established a uniform dress code for its 700 students this year -- by all accounts, the only Long Island public high school that requires a common color and style of clothing.

Most Roosevelt students showed up Thursday in full compliance, with regulation shirts of white or royal blue tucked neatly into khakis. While some teens grumbled privately about the change, parents and other adults on the scene were virtually unanimous in their approval.

"I love it," said Terry Williams, an adult guardian, shortly after she dropped off a ninth-grader for classes. "You don't see girls in clothing that's tight. You don't see the boys with pants below their bottoms."

Elementary schools in Roosevelt and Hempstead already have had uniform codes -- some for up to 20 years. Uniforms are common in the Island's nonpublic schools, both elementary and secondary.

This year's expansion of the dress code to Roosevelt's secondary schools is one of several recent initiatives that have helped the school win federal improvement grants worth more than $1.8 million annually. The extra money is to be used to boost test scores and graduation rates, as the school and its district move toward independence from state management.

The district was taken over by Albany in 2002 and is to regain local control at the end of June.

Roosevelt officials said the dress code serves a dual purpose: It promotes a more serious attitude among students, while also helping identify non-students who enter school grounds without permission.

"We were trying to maintain a more academic environment and raise the standards a little bit, and keep the kids' focus on education and not so much on what other students are wearing," said Stephen Strachan, the high school's principal for the past two years.

The school will issue "gentle reminders" for the time being to students who don't observe the code, Strachan said. Eventually, students who cannot afford uniform garb will be issued "loaners," he said, while those who simply refuse to comply will face penalties.

Strachan introduced similar dress rules in a previous job as principal of David Starr Jordan High School, located in the Watts neighborhood of South-Central Los Angeles.

Some of the high school's teachers are voluntarily following the dress code, Strachan said, adding that the district expects all of its faculty to dress professionally.

Glenda Sanchez, 17, a senior who is vice president of the student government, said her school acquaintances initially split 50-50 on the question of whether uniform dress was a sound idea. Sanchez added that students were adapting quickly to the change.

"I think it's great," said another senior, Jaci-Ann Wright, 16, who is student government treasurer. "To be the first school on Long Island with a dress code, we're leaders."

Nationwide, the portion of public schools requiring uniform garb has risen from 11.8 percent in 1999-2000 to 18.9 percent in 2009-2010, according to U.S. statistics.

Recent research indicates that uniform dress codes can help improve student behavior and attendance. There is little evidence, however, that codes boost academic performance.

Jerome Daniels, 15, a Roosevelt High sophomore, opposes the code. "You can't express yourself," he said.

His mother, Winnie J. Espada-Daniels, noted, however, that the code has helped reduce clothing costs for her three school-age children.

"He's got a right to his opinion," she said of her son's opposition. "But he's still going to wear it."

Roosevelt district dress code

All students will wear the designated school uniform required by their school.

Any oversized, baggy, saggy or extremely tight-fitting clothing is prohibited.

Belts may not be more than one size larger than the waist. All students must wear belts if pants have loops.

Waistbands must be worn at the waist.

Shirts must be tucked in at all times. Undergarments must not be visible.

Midriff tops, halter tops, spaghetti straps, muscle T-shirts, tank tops, T-shirts with distracting images, and revealing or see-through clothing are strictly prohibited.

Shorts and skirts must be knee-length.

Footwear must be worn; students are encouraged to wear socks.

Slippers, sandals or flip-flops are not acceptable.

Hats, hoods, doo-rags and non-religious head-scarves or wraps are prohibited.

Hoop earrings that extend below the chin are prohibited.

Cosmetic gold in the mouth is prohibited.

Any attire and/or images that are disruptive or distracting to the school and learning environment are strictly prohibited.

Donations for uniforms

Businesses and individuals can call Roosevelt High School's main office, 516-345-7203, and ask for the principal or an assistant principal to arrange a contribution.

SOURCE: Roosevelt Union Free School District

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