Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/15/1996 09:10 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 30 SCHOOL DRESS CODES Number 001 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:10 a.m. and introduced HB 30 as the first order of business before the committee. JONATHAN SPERBER, Staff to Representative Bettye Davis, read the following sponsor statement: HB 30 would provide an important discretionary tool for school districts to use in improving the health and safety of students and teachers. The bill is supported by the Association of Alaska School Boards, the Anchorage School District and the Kodiak Island Borough School District. HB 30 is a response to gang-related behavior. Gangs in Alaska, as in the lower 48, use clothing to communicate. In the Kodiak schools, for example, there have been violent fights involving weapons as a result of who is wearing what colors. Uniforms go a long way toward providing a neutral coat of arms for children whose clothing might otherwise make them targets. The president of the Association of Alaska School Boards has said that: To address some of the manifestations of these problems, schools must be given the tools to establish policies which promote optimum educational environments and protect the health and safety of kids and teachers. In our opinion, HB 30 does this. Adopting a school uniform policy would be voluntary under HB 30. Additionally, parents would have the ability to exclude their children from wearing uniforms. It has been the experience of school districts in other states, however, that few students have chosen to opt out of these very successful programs. In Charleston County, S.C., for example, where nearly half the public schools have adopted voluntary uniform policies, educators praise their leveling, egalitarian effect. The students take pride in their studies, viewing school as a place of work rather than just somewhere to hang out with friends. In Long Beach, Cal. school district, which includes 56 elementary and 14 middle schools, adopting a school uniform policy reduced physical fights by 51%, assault and battery cases by 34%, and suspensions by 32%. In a recent nationwide survey of 5,500 secondary school principals, 70% said they believe uniforms would reduce violence. HB 30 also requires that a school district, in order to require students to wear uniforms, must first determine that financial resources are available to assist economically disadvantaged students. It has been the experience of many parents that providing three uniforms per year for a child is far less expensive than purchasing fashionable clothing. Number 061 PAUL BERG, a 5th grade teacher at Glacier Valley School, informed the committee that he had been a teacher in Alaska for 19 years. He said that America's youth are in trouble. The U.S. is topping the charts in youth violence, suicide, teenage pregnancy, drug use, and anti-social behavior. This is an American cultural phenomena which is supported in his investigations. Mr. Berg informed the committee that he does investigative searches for many publications. Mr. Berg identified the following assumptions in American education and the rearing of adolescents that appear to be flawed: *Adolescents should be left alone, so much is happening to them that adult influence is not necessary. *Place little pressure from the adult world on adolescents because it may damage the children. *Do not hold adolescents accountable academically or through criminal codes. Mr. Berg indicated that the children realize these assumptions. This is facilitating youth dysfunction. In cultures without the problems or adolescent dysfunction experienced in America, two basic patterns. The first pattern of these other cultures is to integrate the adolescent into the adult world very quickly. For example, in the area of Lausanne the adolescent is part of the family and village economy by the time the adolescent is 14 years old. The adolescent is embraced by the adult society. Therefore, the trauma of becoming an adult is not experienced to the level as in the U.S. In more advanced industrial societies that do not experience trauma in becoming an adult, another pattern is illustrated. The adult world places much pressure, academic and social, on the adolescent which is the opposite philosophy of that in the U.S. Frequently, these adolescents are required to wear uniforms. Uniforms are the extension of the adult world. Mr. Berg supported HB 30. Uniforms are needed as a tool. Number 147 NANCY BUELL, Department of Education, said that the department has no strong point of view. The State Principals Association is also neutral on this bill and does not foresee any difficulty in enforcing this. CARL ROSE, Alaska Association of School Boards, supported HB 30. He discussed his visit with a Close-Up group recently in which HB 30 was discussed. If there is an opportunity to create a positive environment in schools with dress codes and input from the community, that would positively reflect on the children as well. CHAIRMAN GREEN brought up the issue of backpacks in the Anchorage school district. She inquired as to the will of the committee. SENATOR SALO moved that HB 30 be reported out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.