New NE High uniform policy stirs resistance from some parents who cite cost & influence of reality TV show

Stephanie Cruel (right), whose daughter Rae-Evelyn, 16, is a junior at Northeast High School, maintains the new uniform rule is too costly. She has campaigned for more choices.
Stephanie Cruel (right), whose daughter Rae-Evelyn, 16, is a junior at Northeast High School, maintains the new uniform rule is too costly. She has campaigned for more choices.
Posted: November 04, 2009

A uniform policy that went into effect today at Northeast High School has irritated some parents who say they weren't notified of it until it was too late to do anything about it.

In a letter sent to parents in August, the school's principal said the uniform will "reflect school pride" and help easily identify students.

But some argue that Linda Carroll, who has been principal there for three years, is suddenly enforcing a uniform policy that went into effect districtwide nine years ago only because Tony Danza's reality show, "Teach," started filming there in September.

Stephanie Cruel, whose daughter Rae-Evelyn, a Northeast junior, now must wear a white oxford blouse and khaki pants, said that she and other parents who opposed the mandatory policy were deliberately left in the dark.

"They make it seem like we don't have a say. These are our children," she said. "This is outrageous. People can't afford food, let alone certain things like uniforms."

Carroll declined to comment.

Since August, Cruel has campaigned to revise the policy to include more options for clothing and vendors where it can be purchased. She has written letters to several district officials and politicians, spoken before the School Reform Commission, gathered more than 1,000 parent and student signatures on a petition and gotten a lawyer to investigate whether the policy is legal.

During a recent closed-door meeting with Cruel, district officials offered to buy five uniforms and a sweater for her daughter, said spokesman Fernando Gallard.

But Cruel refused.

"I feel like they want me to take a bargaining chip and leave the matter alone," she said, noting that by taking the offer she would betray a number of other parents. "I'm not a Judas."

But Gallard said the offer would be extended to those who can't afford the uniform.

"The district is willing to find a way to assist parents with acquiring funding to purchase uniforms," he said.

For Antoinette Hynson, a little help would go a long way.

She said she supports the policy but can't afford the clothes.

"As a single parent I cannot afford the sweater, the same sweater can be purchased for much less at a variety of department stores," she wrote in a letter to Ackerman.

But for Leonard Kravitz, whose son Randy, 18, is a senior, the issue's a little different.

He made numerous phone calls and wrote letters to Carroll and other administrators and never got a call back, he said. He tried to find more information about the policy but was unsuccessful.

"It's galling that they could be so fast and loose with other people's money," he said.

But Beth Maloney, president of Northeast's Home and School Association, said the policy was discussed beginning in October 2008 at monthly parent meetings.

"The people who come are involved in the conversation; the people who don't come, how can they be?" she asked.

Northeast students are required to wear khaki tan pants and white oxford or button-down shirts. Girls can also wear khaki tan skirts and boys must wear a tie.

More than 2,000 sweaters emblazoned with a Northeast logo - selling for $31 to $37, with an optional $9 shipping and handling fee - have been ordered from the retailer Flynn and O'Hara, the vendor carrying the uniform, said Sean Flynn, of the company.

Cruel said that the sweaters are optional but that students can either wear the official sweater or no sweater at all.

Philadelphia's uniform policy, implemented in 2000, requires uniforms for all students in kindergarten through eighth grade. High schools have more discretion on whether to implement uniforms.

According to the policy, any uniform must be easy to find and inexpensive and available from more than one retailer.

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