The early verdict is in, and residents in the Sunnyside School District favor school uniforms.
In response to concerns about gang activities and students wearing gang colors, several parents approached the district during the past school year about the possibility of school uniforms.
During last night's school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said mailers were sent to nearly 8,000 residences in the school district to get public input on the uniform idea.
The result based on 340 surveys returned so far by the public indicates, well, uniform approval of the idea.
Cole said 88 percent of those responding said they want all students to wear uniforms, 5 percent want only students in grades sixth through 12 to wear uniforms and 1 percent of respondents want to limit uniforms to elementary students.
Cole said 21 of the ballots were not included in the tally because they were not signed.
With just under 5 percent of school district homes weighing in on the uniform issue, Cole suggested more research into the idea before any action is taken.
Board member Steve Carpenter asked for a more scientific survey to gain more input from parents.
He said soliciting more input would help the district "gauge what the overall interest is." He added, "If the data shows that it (student uniforms) will help us, we need to look it." Carpenter also noted that if further information turned up that uniforms would not be helpful, then the district needs to be aware of that, as well.
School board chair Lorenzo Garza Jr. echoed Carpenter's sentiment, noting that uniforms would be a big step and merits more research. "This is not an issue we want to take lightly," he said.
Cole told the board that district staff will continue investigating the uniform concept, both from the community's perspective as well as reviewing the use of uniforms in other school districts. He later said part of the research will include uniform costs and how they would be paid for.
Cole indicated there may be a need in the future for district representatives to visit school campuses where uniforms are required.
He said the research he has found so far indicates that uniforms have been helpful in some districts and not helpful in others in reducing gang activity.
Board member Miguel Puente cautioned that whatever surveys are issued about school uniforms should include how they would improve student learning.
Puente said the motive is "not surveying the idea of uniforms, but the impact to (student) performance, to increasing student achievement."