After much debate, Seoul American Middle School won’t require uniforms
SEOUL — Students at Seoul American Middle School will not be required to wear uniforms, principal David Dinges announced Friday.
Dinges’ decision came the morning after the School Advisory Committee (SAC), composed of teachers and parents, voted in a closed session Thursday against recommending a uniform policy. Dinges was not required to act on the committee’s vote, though he said it was a key factor in his decision because parents, teachers and students were divided on the issue.
“I think the SAC could have gone either way, and I would have supported the SAC either way,” he said.
Three-fourths of the school’s students said in a poll that they opposed wearing uniforms. Sixty-six percent of teachers and 51 percent of parents supported it.
Committee chairwoman Elise Hampton said members voted 4-2 against the plan, with her abstaining as head of the committee.
“It was a very difficult decision for everybody involved,” she said.
“In the end, our overall consensus was that maybe the community just wasn’t ready, that there just wasn’t enough information put out to make the parents comfortable,” she said.
A uniform policy was proposed by parents in November and was discussed at a handful of open meetings before a final question-and-answer session with the committee Thursday evening.
About two dozen parents and teachers attended. Asked for a show of support for a uniform policy, three raised their hands.
“I don’t agree that a school uniform makes you a productive citizen,” said parent Adriane Mandakunis, whose daughter will be in middle school next year. “It’s what you’re taught in school and how you’re raised.”
Assistant principal Robbie Swint said at the meeting that there was a strong correlation between uniforms and student achievement, and that uniforms would build unity among the school’s 590 students.
“We’re just focusing on being a middle-school team, the cohesiveness,” he said.
Some parents argued it would difficult to find uniforms that would fit all children, and they questioned studies that said uniforms lead to better behavior or higher academic achievement. One parent said uniforms would identify the students as Americans and could make them targets of attacks.
But eighth-grade teacher Amy Cobb said uniforms would help separate middle- and high-school students at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, a problem because middle-school classrooms are scattered among the neighboring elementary and high schools.
“We’ve got some seventh- and eighth-graders who look like grown adults,” she said. “It’s difficult to distinguish who our students are and where they belong.”
Dinges did not attend Thursday’s meeting or speak about the issue before Friday because he wanted to remain neutral.
At least one person in his family wasn’t neutral, however — Dinges’ seventh-grade daughter.
Her reaction to his no-uniforms announcement: “She’s ecstatic,” he said.