Followup: Uniforms recommended for K-5 STEM at Boren

As the plan for West Seattle’s new public school K-5 STEM at Boren continues to take shape, its Design Team is meeting to discuss details big and small. One potentially big item came up at the May 29th meeting: Principal Dr. Shannon McKinney‘s suggestion that the school should require uniforms, or have a uniform-like dress code. (Our coverage of that meeting reports the rationale, as well as the opinions voiced that night.) Though no decision was made at that meeting, as planned, the discussion continued at the most recent meeting this week – and Design Team member Robin Graham tells us the team decided to support the recommendation:

With understanding and appreciation of the community’s thoughts on both sides, the design team supports Dr. McKinney with our vision that STEM is a place kids should know they are doing something very important – this is their uniform for learning.

The uniform will go far to increase safety, reduce distractions; communicate to the students, staff, and the community that we are serious about learning at K-5 STEM; increase equality between sexes; reduce teasing between boys and girls; enable teachers to truly “see” the student as a student; encourage students to see beyond external attributes and get to know his/her classmates on the basis of who they are; along with many other reasons.

The uniform to be decided upon will not be something akin to “ties for the boys and only skirts for the girls.” On the contrary, students will be able to wear khaki-colored pants, shorts and/or skirts of appropriate length, along with initially, perhaps a navy blue polo shirt. After the student body and staff have together chosen school colors, a mascot and a name, then more choices will be added to the uniform. All the logistics and the support to families are details that will be addressed.

The Design Team, which includes community, school, and district representatives, is scheduled to meet again at 6:15 pm June 21st at Madison Middle School‘s library. The school’s PTA is in formation, too, and its charter membership meeting is set for 6:30 pm June 27th at the West Seattle (Admiral) branch of the Seattle Public Library (2306 42nd SW). Meantime, the Yahoo! discussion group for enrolled and interested families continues going strong – find it here.

46 Replies to "Followup: Uniforms recommended for K-5 STEM at Boren"

  • Tony June 10, 2012 (8:53 pm)


  • bsmomma June 10, 2012 (9:00 pm)


  • Lura Ercolano June 10, 2012 (9:01 pm)

    The uniform or dress code needs to accommodate head scarves or other immigrant attire.

  • Mike June 10, 2012 (9:03 pm)

    Evens the play field for kids of all incomes. Less focus on who can afford what designer and ‘in’ clothes and focus on the things they need to.

  • Cole June 10, 2012 (9:30 pm)

    When I taught school in Japan, my students who wore uniforms asked what kind of uniform American public school kids wore.

    Proudly I said, “In America, kids can wear whatever they like!” However, their response changed my mind forever. You Americans don’t wear uniforms to your schools? Don’t you wear them when you play sports? Yes, I replied.

    To this they saw the pride in a uniform for school in the same way one feels when you play on a team. A uniform signifies pride, community and a sense of belonging. I hope that feeling is someday felt here.

  • WSMom June 10, 2012 (9:38 pm)

    These kids are going to be mathematicians and engineers, right? They’ll have to wear khaki pants and blue shirts for the rest of their lives. Give them a break when they’re young. Also, these are geeks. God love them and I am one, but they will need some practice at dressing themselves.

  • StringCheese June 10, 2012 (9:41 pm)

    Cole, thanks for sharing that. A great comment and refreshing point of view.

  • evergreen June 10, 2012 (9:51 pm)

    Lura, it will. The law protects religious attire.

  • Mike June 10, 2012 (10:04 pm)

    WSMom, we don’t wear khaki’s and blue shirts, we wear shorts, t-shirts and sometimes even shoes. ;) I think you’re stuck in 1965.

  • nighthawk June 11, 2012 (12:24 am)

    Well that stinks, I really dislike uniforms in public school. Private school, sure, public schools, not so much.

  • deb June 11, 2012 (5:28 am)

    great idea….when my daughter changed schools in the sixth grade she wanted to go to another school that had uniforms like she always had….made it so much easier to get ready in the morning and tons less expensive…focus on education

  • 35this35mph June 11, 2012 (6:11 am)

    I am not inherently opposed to a uniform dress code in public schools, but I am uncomfortable with it being applied at one school and not others. While it may promote a sense of a level playing field within the school, it will create a sense of stratification within the larger public school community.

  • Andrew June 11, 2012 (7:09 am)

    Bravo! It’s about time.

  • forrealtho June 11, 2012 (7:28 am)

    My kids go to private & have strict dress codes – it helps SO much to take that choice out of their days. Great decision!

  • Cclarue June 11, 2012 (7:28 am)

    I would love for all the public schools to require a uniform.

  • forrealtho June 11, 2012 (7:30 am)

    My kids go to private & have strict dress codes – it helps SO much to take that choice out of their days. Great decision! And don’t forget you’ll never please everyone – make decisions and keep movin’.

  • tarnover_graduate June 11, 2012 (7:53 am)

    Mike, I’m WSMom’s engineer husband. Since I come from the Unix -hippie tradition, it’s always been cargo shorts, sandals, and threadbare conference t-shirts.

    My point is: she should know better.

  • Katie June 11, 2012 (7:54 am)

    I taught in a public school in Rainier Beach that required uniforms and it was great. The students were required to wear blue pants and a white shirt. Students were given uniforms if they couldn’t afford them. It takes away the pressure from kids on wearing the “cool” clothes and not being able to afford to buy them.

  • Brandon June 11, 2012 (7:59 am)

    I went to a public school with uniforms (South Shore now Aki Kurose). I think it is a good idea, but not because it reduces bullying for not wearing the “right” brands. It just shifts the focus to other items, shoes at my school and the navy blue polos better be a ‘brand name’. But I still think it is a good idea.

  • Westseattleperson June 11, 2012 (9:23 am)

    I too would LOOOVE all of SPS to go to uniforms.

    Great decision.

  • Ann June 11, 2012 (9:54 am)

    I don’t agree that uniforms are necessary. The kids who want to will find a way to differentiate. And, it’s not like this school will have some huge economic diversity to deal with anyway. All the problems this choice proposes to solve can be addressed in more constructive ways that deal with the bigger picture issues and would help kids more in the long run. I think this choice is short sighted.

  • star 55 June 11, 2012 (10:39 am)

    It was stated that the uniforms will go far to increase safety. There is no doubt that is creats a safe environment. Anyone coming onto the campus not in uniform is quickly noticed. Great idea and it works.

  • M231 June 11, 2012 (10:40 am)

    Previous poster, you said: “Also, these are geeks.”

    Seriously ? You’re calling children in uniforms geeks ? Sounds like you were probably the bully in school. I say bring on the uniforms !

  • Gyngersnap June 11, 2012 (10:54 am)

    I applaud the uniform idea. It will solve more problems than it will create. Kids can change their clothes after school and wear whatever they want. I wish more public schools would consider requiring uniforms!

  • westello June 11, 2012 (11:25 am)

    There’s a two-fold issue here.

    One,this announcement comes AFTER Open Enrollment. Whether you agree with uniforms or not, it’s information parents should have BEFORE making a choice.

    Two,given it was made after Open Enrollment,this district likely can’t enforce it. And, if there are parents who cannot afford uniforms, who pays? The district (and with what money)? The PTA? I think a new PTA has a lot better things to raise money for than uniforms.

    Uniforms or not, it would have been good for the district to make sure people understood this was a final decision before they picked the school.

  • WSMama3 June 11, 2012 (11:36 am)

    At first I was a solid “no” on uniforms. My oldest hates collars and I love that he loves his star wars t-shirts and “fast running pants”. That said, I heard Dr. McKinney explain why she felt it was a “uniform for learning” – and I agree with her.

    Also – my kid is not a geek.

    Also – the Design Team spent a lot of time talking about uniforms. We didn’t just agree – we heard some solid pros and some solid cons and decided based on all the information we had to approve uniforms for STEM.

    “These kids are going to be mathematicians and engineers, right?”. Nope. STEM is for any and every kid. My kid is going to STEM and he might decide to be a garbage man, an artist, or a Dad – but he is going to have the academic and social skills to be what ever he wants (except Superman or a ninja much to his chagrin).

    K-5 STEM Meet & Greet is this Wednesday – hope you can make it!

    When: Wednesday, June 13th from 6-8 PM
    Where: Madison Middle School (3429 45th Ave SW)
    Who: Enrolled families, interested families (kids too!), community members, and partners
    What: Meet the faculty and staff and get an update on K-5 STEM Fall 2012

    Robin Graham

  • bsmomma June 11, 2012 (12:54 pm)

    When parents signed there kids up for STEM it was about the education, right? So they have to wear a certain color top and bottom?! It’s clothing. It should still be about the great education they’re going to get! If clothing is really that big of an issue, so much that you want un-enroll……..well then do it. Let someone else on the waitlist in. I say this as there are some very upset parents on the yahoo group.

  • Andrew June 11, 2012 (12:57 pm)

    Im sorry, if a parent can afford to dress their children at all, they can pick certain types of shirts and pants. I know, I was a single dad for almost 18 years. Give me a break.

  • northdelridge June 11, 2012 (1:01 pm)

    What a great start to what I’m hoping will be an amazing program for my kids!

  • spsparent June 11, 2012 (1:23 pm)

    I really hope parents that are against uniforms do not unenroll their child at STEM. I think that parents that are against school uniforms have very good reasons for thier opinion and I respect it.
    I don’t think this decision is yet final. Did the design team decide that school uniforms have to happen or did the design team give the principal the OK to explore the idea further (in other words they wouldn’t stop it from happening)? I would think that if the principal decides based on community input that she no longer wants to pursue school uniforms, the design team would support that decision too. Nothing ever seems to be final at SPS.

  • Oliver June 11, 2012 (1:44 pm)

    Sheesh – let’s not stereotype kids at such a young age because their parents want better opportinies for them. Just because I, a social person who knows how to dress stylishly, choose to send my son to a school on the hope of a better science and math curriculum that would engage him does not mean that he is a geek.

    But seriously – the high interest in the school is because of the frustration with the status quo. We’re getting singapore math, modern literacy programs, a real art program, and the benefit of a principal/teachers thinking innovatively for the future. The anti-uniform complaints seem rather closed minded, knee jerk reactions – do you really want to tolerate the disappointing status quo curriculum in favor of status quo clothing? What my son wears to school is the least of my concerns in evaluating what/how he is learning and I hope people will keep an open mind. I was convinced after listening, though originally a definite since I was a catholic school girl who wore a uniform. Times cahnge and we’re not talking plaid jumpers and slaps with the ruler if you don’t comply.

  • spsparent June 11, 2012 (2:03 pm)

    I don’t think many parents want to give up the many great things that are happening at the school over uniforms. But, uniforms do matter to some people. I think all parents should be able to express their opinions, wether that is out of support, concern, questioning, dislike, etc. about uniforms. This is not something most parents had thought would be a decision the design team would be making. I don’t think opinions against uniforms by the STEM community should be dismissed. By having the students wear uniforms at STEM the uniforms are making a statement. I am not clear on what that statement is.

  • evergreen June 11, 2012 (2:09 pm)

    Right on, Oliver

  • evergreen June 11, 2012 (2:28 pm)

    Not sure if anyone else noticed, but the woman who used the term geek said it in humor and is married to an engineer. I make fun of my engineer husband, too. We Seattlelites can be a pretty serious crowd sometimes and get really worked up over trivial issues. A decision had to be made, and there will always be people unhappy with the results. I’m impressed that the design team efficiently made so many decisions — that itself is unusual for this town!

    Westello, ALL of the decisions were made after open enrollment. People who read info posted by SPS or the WSB knew that everything about this school was unknown, including curricula, classroom composition, teachers, funding, etc… You signed up for the same level of uncertainty as everyone else.

  • Jawat June 11, 2012 (2:40 pm)

    I do wish that the principal and design team had formally sought input from all of those enrolled in K-5 STEM ( not just those following the Yahoo group.) Uniforms were never mentioned as a possibility at open enrollment and now they are a requirement? Perhaps they should implement it next year, so that all those who choose to send their child to the school will know in advance that uniforms will be part of attending the school.

  • StringCheese June 11, 2012 (3:01 pm)

    We wear the term “geek” with pride at our house! In my opinion, the appropriate response for someone calling you a geek is to say, “Thank you!”.

  • neighbor June 11, 2012 (4:54 pm)

    From what I can discern of her past record, I believe the principal may continue to “suggest” things that many families will not agree to. Oh well.

  • AH Parent June 11, 2012 (5:01 pm)

    Here’s the excerpt that was included in a recent AH Newsletter. To me this is an appropriate “dress code” in our public schools.
    Arbor Heights’ students are expected to display personal cleanliness, neatness, and appropriate attire at all times. The wearing of obscene or offending apparel is not appropriate. Consistent with the Seattle Public Schools drug and alcohol prevention program, we discourage students from wearing clothing that promotes these types of products. Students will be asked to change into appropriate attire. Shoes must be worn at all times for health and safety reasons. Inappropriate clothing includes: bare midriff or spaghetti straps t-shirts, pants that are too baggy or low, wallet chains, shirts that have objectionable graphics, revealing or too tight and footwear that could be considered unsafe.
    The fingertip rule will apply to the wearing of shorts and skirts. Length cannot be above fingertips when hands are held at side. This length allows modesty to exist throughout the student’s day.
    When buying tops for school, the straps should be at least two fingers wide. This width keeps undergarments covered. Kids grow during the year and are often caught off-guard when tops that were long enough in the fall are too short in the spring. Tops need to cover the midriff during the entire day which includes various physical activities.
    Hats, bandanas, etc. may be worn to and from school: however, they are not permitted during instructional time.

  • Oliver June 11, 2012 (5:49 pm)

    I realize the geek comment was made as a joke and that some take pride in it, my only point is that kids might not take it that way and I would hate to have all STEM kids labeled with what make them very self-conscious and damage their self-esteem.

  • Julie June 11, 2012 (6:19 pm)

    I am concerned that people are already labeling STEM kids as “geeks.” And I am also concerned that uniforms will perpetuate that label. All children deserve a progressive education in science and math, even if they end up becoming an artist, or writer, or teacher, etc. I want my child to go to STEM so that all doors are open for her when she does decide to make a choice about what to pursue as she gets older. STEM children will have art , PE, and music classes, and my daughter is exposed to art and literature at home, as well. I want her to have a solid foundation in all subjects, and that is why I am choosing STEM education for her. I certainly hope that going to the school does not result in others referring to her ( or any child) as a “geek.”

  • evergreen June 11, 2012 (7:44 pm)

    I think the term “geek” has been redefined since I was in grade school. Now they are the ones with the highest paying jobs, and they have GLOBAL demand. I would love for my child to find his inner STEM geek! Bill Gates’ take on the term:

  • westello June 11, 2012 (9:45 pm)

    Well, I didn’t sign up for anything. But it seems odd that by enrolling in the school, it means you buy into anything the district/principal says it will be. Isn’t the point of opening a new school to work with parents to get support and consensus for the school?

    I think the district should give parents a year to consider this when you consider all the other things that need to be in place.

  • WS_Mom June 11, 2012 (10:00 pm)

    I grew up in Asia and wore school uniform everyday. It really is a great idea. Agreed with @Cole – hope it’s appreciated in U.S. public schools some day. However highly doubtful because most of the adults making the decisions haven’t experienced the benefits of school uniform themselves. It’ll be difficult to make this type of changes when we have so many other issues to deal with in the schools.

  • Neighborly June 11, 2012 (11:36 pm)

    How can a school of under 300 students guarantee art, music and PE? If they can afford this, please, share the secret so that all SPS students can have these subjects, taught by specialists.

  • another AH Parent June 12, 2012 (1:00 pm)

    I also remember reading the dress code that was sent home. It doesn’t seem to be too enforced judging by some of the skimpy attire by some of the 5th graders. Perhaps the parents aren’t aware of it – I didn’t know where was one until that letter went home.

    I am 100% behind a stricter dress code. Children need to learn at some point that when they enter the “real world” there is an appropriate way to present yourself at work etc. If the parents aren’t going to teach it, who will? And I agree with it for all other above mentioned reasons. I would applaud the SPS if they implemented this basic code (pants/polos all uniform) for ALL it’s schools, but I’ll assume that won’t happen.

  • evergreen June 12, 2012 (6:26 pm)

    Neighborly, please read the design team notes on the SPS website. Our arts program is based on the Schmitz Park model (not funded by SPS), and we have 1.5 FTE funding for a PE and music teacher.

    Click on meeting minutes, art program described in 5/29 meeting:

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