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Did Lorain Schools violate Ohio Revised Code with new uniform policy?

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LORAIN — Lorain Schools updated its uniform policy less than four weeks before students are expected to be back in class, and many are questioning the timeline as parents head to area stores.

The only major change from previous years involved the removal of black as an acceptable color for both tops and bottoms and the removal of gray as an acceptable color for skirts and pants. The changes went public Wednesday to parents and students, who are gearing up for an Aug. 22 return to school.

However, a change like that so close to the start of the school year could be a violation of the Ohio Revised Code’s conditions for adopting a school dress code or uniform policy. Lorain Schools has had a uniform policy since the 2007-08 school year.

According to state law, “no specific uniform shall be required in any school until the parents of the students in the school have been given six months notice.”

District spokesman Eric Bonzar said district CEO David Hardy had no comment regarding a potential violation of the Ohio Revised Code or the uniform policy in general Friday.

A listening session for high school students regarding the uniform policy is scheduled for noon Tuesday in the Lorain High School cafeteria, 2600 Ashland Ave. According to a Facebook post from the district, it was initially scheduled for 10 a.m. but the time was changed to accommodate more students.

Parent Jennifer Carver said she can barely afford the uniforms as it is but removing black cuts down her child’s options.

“Now I read that I can’t buy black, and I just bought four black outfits,” she said. “This is ridiculous and I’m wondering if I can receive any assistance because now I have to re-buy her uniforms.”

According to the same section of the Ohio Revised Code, the district must have a “procedure to assist parents of economically disadvantaged students to obtain uniforms,” which can “include using school district funds or funds from other sources to provide this assistance.”

Both the district’s new and old policies state those who qualify for free or reduced lunches can be provided with assistance in obtaining uniforms, which must be submitted in writing to the student’s principal.

Hardy also has said there will be washing machines and dryers in each school building as well as additional sets of clothes to help keep students in uniform even if they arrive for class breaking the dress code.

He has said the uniform piece is part of improving consistency in the district’s culture.

“Some of the expectations are actually a detriment to our kids, and we need to change those,” he said. “For example, a child who is out of dress code being sent out of school for three days doesn’t make a lot of sense. Instead, let’s find a way to get them into dress code, get them into class and on the road for a productive path.”

Parent Brandy Siska said she favors a uniform policy but is bothered by the timing, having been made aware of the Ohio Revised Code stipulation that the district needs to give six months notice.

“It’s causing a huge hardship on my family as well as many others,” she said. “Secondly, taking black away completely and gray pants away was ridiculous. A lot of people preferred the black because it didn’t show stains as well.”

Siska said the removal of gray also doesn’t make sense because it’s one of the district’s school colors, and she also believes Titan spirit gear should be included as appropriate attire.

“Titan pride has unified what was once a divided city after all the schools merging into one,” she said, referring to the closure of Admiral King and Southview high schools in 2010 and subsequent merger into Lorain High School. “Before the merger there was a fierce rivalry amongst the schools. After the merger it took a lot of work to let go of that.”

Siska said she felt taking these options away was a huge waste of money for parents who bought the gear the school district sold them.

Parent Matasha Dobbins said she has a hard enough time finding uniforms for her children, but cutting out two colors makes it that much harder.

“I don’t feel it is right to take these colors away,” she said. “There hasn’t been any trouble with them in the past so why change now? As for not being able to wear the school logo clothes, that is just ridiculous.”

Dobbins said her son enjoys wearing his Special Olympics shirts, which feature the school’s logo, but by not allowing spirit wear, he can’t do that anymore.

“He is very proud of his accomplishments with it, and so are many other students representing their school pride,” she said. “They take enough from them. The clothes are just one more thing that makes the school seem like a prison.”

Contact Katie Nix at 440-329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @KatieHNix.


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