SPARTA, NJ – The topic of school uniforms for the Sparta public school district has been discussed a number of times in the past few years. Paula Bladek, Sparta school parent, has discussed the issue at Superintendent Dennis Tobin’s forums and during public comment portion of a board of education meeting. Recently her husband, board member Richard Bladek, has asked that the district formally look into adopting such a policy.
Tobin’s response at the June meeting was to survey the parents in the district to determine whether or not there was support for the initiative. Dr Melissa Varley, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Staff Development had been charged with creating the survey.
When Richard Bladek revisited the topic in June fellow board member Frank Favichia inquired as to whether or not there was a precipitating incident that would cause him to propose a school uniform policy. “Why are you asking this? I mean did something happen?” Favichia said.
Bladek, candidate for re-election in November, said no, but that it had been discussed in the past.
There are a few public schools in New Jersey that do have school uniform policies. Penns Grove-Carneys Point School district requires students Kindergarten through eighth grade to comply. Vineland began a new policy last year. Salem County Special Services District and Vocational Technical District, Paulsboro, Asbury Park, Atlantic City High School, Neptune, Black Horse Pike regional Pleasantville and Bridgeton in South Jersey all have uniform policies. Additionally Millville and Washington Township are considering adding the requirement.
In North Jersey it is more common to find a school uniform policy in the larger urban districts such as Newark, Paterson, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Union City and Passaic City. Other public schools in North Jersey with a uniform policy include North Arlington, Belleville, Linden, Lyndhurst.
Officials from the New Jersey Department of Education said, “It is not a state mandate so it would be a local matter. It would have to be determined by local policy.”
According to New Jersey statute Title 18A:11-8 Adoption of dress code policy for schools permitted,
"2.a. A board of education may adopt a dress code policy to require that students wear a school uniform if the policy is requested by the principal, staff and parents of an individual school and if the board determines that the policy will enhance the school learning environment.
Any policy adopted which requires the wearing of a uniform shall include a provision to assist economically disadvantaged students.
The board shall hold a public hearing prior to the adoption of the policy and shall not implement the policy with less than three months’ notice to the parent of the students.
b. The board of education may provide a method whereby parents may choose not to comply with an adopted school uniform policy. If the board provides such a method, a student shall not be penalized..."
According to National Center for Educational Statistics of the US Department of Education, “Between the 2003–04 and 2011–12 school years, the percentage of public schools reporting that they required that students wear uniforms increased from 13 to 19 percent. In 2011-12, the percentage of public secondary schools who reported requiring that students wear uniforms [at] 12 percent was lower than the percentages of elementary schools [at] 20 percent and combined schools [at] 30 percent with such a requirement. Higher percentages of public city schools than of public schools in suburban, town, and rural areas reported requiring students to wear uniforms”.
The survey was being reviewed by board of education members before being released to the public.