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Greencastle students weigh in on school uniforms

November 21, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Opinions collided about the advantages and disadvantages of school uniforms during a Tuesday evening forum at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Organized and presented by three Greencastle-Antrim High School government and economics classes, the forum was open to the public and was designed to give students, parents and other community members an opportunity to share their views on the issue, said Ellen Kirkner, who teaches government and economics.

The forum was one of several activities that students in the government and economics classes have organized through a federal Learn and Serve Civics grant.

According to Kirkner, the purpose of the grant is "to promote civic participation among young people."

"We were asked in class to think of ideas we'd like to bring up to have opinions and show we're informed about (the issue)," said Randall Gates, 17, who was on the pro side of the forum.

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"We all had to do research ahead of time and did a debate ahead of time," said Danel Berman, 16, a member of the panel who was in favor of school uniforms.

Five student panelists were on each side of the issue and Franklin County Judge Richard Walsh acted as moderator.

The pro side of the forum argued that school uniforms are cheaper than regular clothes, improve self-confidence among students, decrease crime in schools, and improve academic performance.

"Children are inflicting harm because of the name brand on their jeans," said Justine Greenwood, 16, a panelist on the pro side of the forum. "It's about improving the deteriorating state of the educating environment."

Student Lance Miller, 16, presented a study from a school in Long Beach, Calif., that instituted school uniforms in 1999. The study revealed that crime rate in the school decreased by 91 percent.

The cost of a school uniform is about one-third the cost of an average school outfit, said Danel Berman, 16.

"State or school district funding could mean no cost to parents," Berman said.

On the other side of the debate, Brittany Lackey, 16, presented how school uniforms inhibit individual expression, are an economic hardship and belong in private schools.

"Uniforms would suppress our individuality as students," she said. "If you want to wear uniforms, go to a private school."

"This is about a violation of our rights as Americans," said Erin Beard, 16.

According to the con side of the forum, an average uniform costs about $47, which is $3 less than an average girl's outfit at American Eagle Outfitters.

In a survey of 150 Greencastle-Antrim High School students, 73 said they were opposed to school uniforms and 53 said they liked the idea, according to Kirkner.

A member of the audience, Angela Houpt, asked the group against school uniforms if they would be willing to dress more modestly.

"I would be willing to go with whatever (administration) thinks is modest," Lackey said. "I do believe it is very important for guys and girls to dress modestly at school.

School board president Dan Fisher, vice president Mike Shindle and parent representative Annette Group also participated.

After the forum, Fisher said, "you could tell they're passionate about it, the way they scrambled for the microphone."

"If you can stop one person from getting emotionally hurt, we should enforce school uniforms tomorrow," Miller said.

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