Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uniforms Not a Good Fit at Forum

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uniforms Not a Good Fit at Forum

Article excerpt

CLIFTON -- Eight candidates for the city school board on Monday night declared priorities and waded into local issues that have dominated public discussion this year, ranging from a proposed school uniform policy to the district's funding priorities.

The candidates, seated on stage in Clifton High School's auditorium, made their pitches to a crowd of political figures, student activists and parents, and took veiled jabs at one another during a forum moderated by the Somerset County chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Five candidates are vying for three three-year terms and three of them are running for a single, one-year term in the Nov. 3 election.

Moderator Terry Thompson wasted no time asking the candidates about this year's most politically charged issue: a proposed school uniform policy for elementary school pupils that stalled after protests by parents and several board members.

In apparent recognition of the sharp criticism the policy has received, none of the candidates expressed outright support for uniforms. But they were split about whether they would rule them out. Incumbents Tafari Anderson and Michael Evans and newcomer Jaime Placek expressly condemned the plan and decried the process by which it was considered. Anderson noted that for the board to consider a uniform policy, it should be to address a problem, such as gang violence -- an issue that hasn't arisen in Clifton schools, he said.

Evans agreed, saying "there are many problems we have in this district - uniforms are not going to solve any of them."

Placek, an attorney in Fort Lee, who declared he was "strongly anti-uniform," said throughout a debate over the policy this year that "The public has been misled -- lied to in certain instances."

Trustee Jack Houston also rejected the proposal, saying such a policy would be "overregulation" and impair the "freedom of parents" to choose what their children wear. …

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