Latest News

Manatee school uniform policy approved

BRADENTON — By a 4-0 vote, the Manatee County School Board approved a district-wide uniform policy for students.

The fifth school board member, Jane Pfeilsticker, was absent from Monday night’s meeting.

Under the new rule, principals at individual schools would take the first step by recommending that uniforms become mandatory attire. To move the proposal forward, at least 67 percent of Student Advisory Council committees would have to support the measure.

After that, parents would vote on the change and would need a 51 percent approval rate. The enrolling parent is the only person who can vote on individual ballots that will be sent home, schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal said.

“In cases of a difference of opinion among a family, that parent will make the final decision,” McGonegal said.

Board members in January asked the district to look into requiring uniforms after they learned Osceola School District officials adopted a strict universal dress code policy last school year and began seeing a decrease in disruptive behavior. Gang activity decreased by 40 percent in Osceola’s district, and school leaders there also saw a drop in student sexual harassment, said Board Member Barbara Harvey.

“We are concerned with gangs in Manatee County,” Harvey said Monday night.

Under the new policy, individual schools will form a uniform committee to select uniform color and attire. The policy is not gender specific, which means boys and girls can wear slacks.

“The school must make provisions for those students who by reason of the financial hardship cannot comply with the uniform and must notify the students’ parents of these provisions,” the policy adds.

If individual schools approve a mandatory uniform, parents re-vote on the matter every three years.

Manatee has no district-wide uniform policy — only a dress code that prohibits certain types of clothing, including hats, and jeans with cuts, slits or holes above the knee.

Prior to the change, 20 schools in the district already require uniforms. Of the district’s more than two dozen elementary schools, more than half of them require uniforms that allow a choice between four or five shirt- or pant-color options. Aside from charter schools, Johnson Middle School was the only secondary school that required students to wear a uniform — a shirt with the school logo.

Also Monday night, the superintendent did not announce the names of people that he plans to recommend to fill principal positions at four district schools. That could happen later this week, school officials said.

In other matters board members:

n Suspended Gullett Elementary kindergarten teacher Melissa Graves without pay for three days for gross insubordination. An administrative law judge determined she failed to prepare her classroom for summer cleaning in June of 2009.

n Scheduled a public hearing for July 26 to discuss a new policy that would create more peanut-free schools in the district. Under the new policy one school in every geographic cluster would be peanut-free. Parents and guardians would not be permitted to pack any peanut-type product in lunches.

n Extended School Board Attorney John Bowen’s employment contract through June 30, 2013. Bowen, who has practiced law for 37 years, has an annual salary of $178,897.23.

n Approved a $23,750 lawsuit settlement with Linda Milledge who was involved in a Dec. 4, 2006, accident with a district school bus near Ninth Avenue Drive East and 29th Street East. Milledge, who claimed $21,307.38 in medical bills, initially demanded $65,000.

n Recognized six former Palma Sola Elementary kindergarten students who wrote their own books during the 2009-10 school year: Sanibel Silenzi, Niko Fielder, Melanie Garcia, Danielle Warren and Amelia Gibson.