Not wearing your uniform? Pay Up!

By Genesis Tejada-Peralta

Two years ago, Franklin Learning Center implemented a controversial new policy on school uniforms: Show up without khakis and navy and be hit with a $5 fine.

Ever since the policy went into effect at the Philadelphia high school, students and parents have been trying to cope with the measure. Many have begun to question the effectiveness of the fine, which seems unfair not only to the students but to some financially strapped parents as well.

“I’m struggling, and the school wants to charge my child money for not wearing a shirt?” said Comfort Kaikpo, mother of Nickey Sawbo, 17, a junior at Franklin Learning Center. “Are you guys the ones that are going to pay my rent?”

Kaikpo is one of many who feel this punitive measure has become a pocketbook issue that is unfair to families.

An affluent student may wear designer clothes and jewelry. Another student may have just the basic apparel — no flash, no bling. Everyone’s equal, however, so the fines are taking their toll on everyone.

Conservative estimates show that if every student paid one fine last year, FLC would have collected $4,000. FLC appears to be unusual in its policy of fining students for violating uniform policy. A sampling of 20 students from 18 high schools in the Philadelphia region gathered Feb. 25 in Center City for a journalism workshop, indicated that no other school had such a policy.

However, most of the students said they did wear uniforms to school.

The reason the School District of Philadelphia and administrators across the city implemented a uniform policy was so that all students would be on equal footing.

At FLC, however, it appears that the administration has taken this fine to another level. Students are up in arms over this policy and the negative connotation of the word uniform.

Despite the fact that students frequently show up out of uniform, it is not the uniform itself that angers students, but rather the punishment.

Most students understand that there is a uniform policy and that when it is violated, there will be repercussions. But they also believe there can be an alternative punishment.

Katherine Khella, a teacher at FLC, believes there is a way to keep students from being out of uniform — and that would be a substitute for the fine.

“We should maybe have a set of uniforms that could be loaned out to students at school,” she said. “Or we should have washers and dryers at school that kids could use.”

Uniforms and punishments go hand in hand and are as old as school itself — a concept that is understood and maybe one that can’t be changed.

What can be modified, though, is the form of punishment.


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