Some spoke for and some spoke against, but the majority of Palestine Independent School District constituents attending a Thursday meeting agreed they would support the district’s decision regarding a school uniform policy — whatever it might be.

With well more than 100 PISD students, parents, teachers and taxpayers in attendance, almost 20 were able to voice their varying opinions and concerns to the board during Thursday’s informational meeting.

The first citizen to speak, former teacher Jennifer Moore, was part of a school district in South Texas that implemented the wearing of uniforms.

“It brought the students up academically,” Moore said. “It also kept students from being distracted by what other students were wearing.

“I think having uniforms will help a whole lot.”

Former Houston teacher Scott Holden voiced a different opinion on the issue.

“Uniforms do not end individuality, nor do they stop fights in the hallway,” he said. “And even with uniforms there will still be students that will break the dress code.

“As a teacher, I spent just as much time enforcing a uniform dress code as I would if I were at a school without them.”

Former PISD teacher and current teacher of inmates at a local correctional facility, Ella Green, expressed a similar opinion to Holden’s.

“The inmates all wear the same things and there are still problems,” she said. “Students will still fight and act a fool with uniforms on.

“Palestine is not that big of a school,” Green continued. “I think that it is the student and the parents’ responsibility to make sure their child follows the rules of the dress code.”

One of the main concerns voiced by attendees was that of cost.

Proponents claimed that buying uniforms was actually cheaper, while opponents voiced concerns about the economically disadvantaged and about having to buy two sets of clothes for students.

“It is a lot less expensive,” said parent Wendy Todd, who moved to the area from a district that required uniforms. “The students were allowed to have several colors and could mix or match the uniform.

“I think a lot of the reason the kids fight is because there are so many groups at school — you are classified by the way you dress,” Todd continued. “Having uniforms levels the playing field.”

Parent Melanie Williamson addressed the issue of two sets of clothes.

“I spend a lot of money on school clothes, and because of that I certainly don’t let them wear those clothes when they get home,” she said. “I have them change into their play clothes.

“Whether they are uniforms or not, parents will still have to buy clothes for their children to wear to school.”

Parent Cheril Evans, who also moved to Palestine from a district with uniforms, offered ideas on how to help those who are unable to afford uniforms.

“Many parents just handed them down to siblings or others who needed them,” she said. “Some of them were sold for as little as $2 an item.”

Local physician and parent Dean French emphasized the safety issue of having uniforms.

“With some students traveling from campus to campus, it would be easier to tell who is supposed to be there or not,” he said. “It would protect students from strangers or drug dealers and it would make it more difficult for students to skip school.”

It was not just parents who offered their opinion — several students also were able to speak to the board about their concerns with the issue of uniforms.

Palestine High School sophomore Seth Moore spoke about the students’ rights to individuality and inadequacy in enforcement of the current dress code.

“I feel like uniforms are only a band aid and a financial burden and do not address the real issue,” Seth Moore said. “It is great to be an individual and with a uniform you cannot do that.

“Teachers have a responsibility to enforce the dress code,” he added. “The staff needs to work together to handle the problem.”

Amanda Coe, 14, voiced similar opinions, adding that she was concerned that her classmates might make some bad choices if uniforms were OK’d.

“Several students have told me that if uniforms were approved, they would drop out of school,” Coe said. “I care deeply about my friends and I don’t want to see them do that.

“It doesn’t matter what a student wears, they are going to act a certain way no matter what.”

In concluding the meeting trustees and administrators emphasized that they were nowhere near making a final decision on the policy, and that the meeting was merely a tool to gather input from the community.

They also asked for volunteers to be part of a committee to study the issue further. Those interested may contact PISD Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Eiben at 903-731-8000.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com