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Rock Hill 7th graders call for end to district's school uniform policy

They testified to the difficulty of finding uniforms, one student mentioned it took them nearly a month to get one.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Monday night during a Rock Hill Board of Education meeting, several seventh graders addressed the board, arguing for the school uniform policy to be discontinued.

Chairperson Helena Miller reminded the board that they are "in the business of kids," but recognized that oftentimes decisions that impact kids are made mostly by adults. She shared her excitement that these Rawlinson Road Middle School students were there to address something they were passionate about.

The South Carolina children approached the microphone to make their presentation, leading with a quote from famed anthropologist Margaret Mead that said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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The students then cited statistics that spoke to the rarity of school uniforms in America and mentioned how nearby Lancaster County School District recently did away with its school uniforms for its sixth- through eighth-graders. 

They also testified to the difficulty of finding uniforms, one student mentioned it took them nearly a month to get one. Another student pointed out how inconsistent the policies are across the different middle schools in the district.

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They shared quotes from their fellow students and what they thought about the school uniforms -- most of them said they didn't like them and felt like their creativity is stifled.

"Let's face it, in the current high inflation economy, it's not sensible to require parents to spend money they may not be able to spare to buy uniforms," a student said. 

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They then asked for the board to recommend to the Rock Hill Schools administration staff and the middle school principals to eliminate the school uniform policy. 

The presentation was met with a standing ovation from the board but it was also met with questions.

Chairperson Mildred Douglas asked the students why they wanted to eliminate the uniform policy, and the student reiterated how the students feel like they can't express themselves when they wear uniforms.

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Vice-chair Robin Owens asked the students if they had tried to talk to the school administration about their opinions about the school uniform policy, and they said they had but had not heard back from a few of them, save Dutchman Creek Middle School Principal Clayton Moton who they said supports their efforts. 

Douglas argued school uniform policy is a safety issue, can prevent kids from skipping school and can lead to an increase in bullying.

Windy Cole thanked the students for their presentation and emphasized she's been asking for years for a relaxation of the school uniform policy.

"We need to make sure that students -- if they should make some changes --- ... respect whatever the dress code is because as you know just a few can change this for everybody and that's one of the reasons years ago the dress code was put in because people were constantly pushing limits," Cole said.

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Patrice Reid Cherry agreed some students cannot afford the school uniform and expressed her support for their case.

Miller applauded them for coming in to raise their voices on something and mentioned how it's important to review policies that were implemented a while ago. However, Miller put the decision-making back on the local principals since the board doesn't make that type of decision because it's not in the school handbook. 

"Changing policy, changing practice takes time, so don't give up; continue to work toward the goal that you have set," Owens shared. "It does take time, but if committed to it, there is opportunity for change." 

The board did say they will discuss it with the principals, too.

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