In a first for the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wright Middle School students will wear uniforms next year.
In a 5-2 decision on Monday, the Madison School Board voted to waive MMSD’s current dress code in favor of allowing Wright to implement a school uniform policy, a change the school requested.
Wright Principal Angie Crawford told the board that a uniform policy at the school would reduce distractions for students and help Wright continue to close the achievement gap.
“Looking at what student needs are, kids coming focused on ‘what I look like’ and ‘what I have and what I don’t have’ is a huge distraction to their learning,” Crawford said. “Especially for the students that we serve at Wright, that is a distraction that they do not need.”
Crawford also said that the Wright community had been considering a uniform policy since 2013 and decided to move forward this year.
Students will be required to wear royal blue, black or white shirts with black or khaki bottoms (including slacks, skirts, skorts or shorts.) The policy also includes a similar dress code for Wright staff.
The policy will also regulate shoes, requiring students to wear solid black, white or navy footwear. Students will be allowed to wear athletic shoes. Crawford said shoes were a big point of contention for families throughout the process, but “it was taken down to ‘as long as the shoes are all (one color)’ it doesn’t matter, it can be a tennis shoe,” she said. “When thinking about gym, they need something that’s comfortable.”
Wright presented a seven-page rationale for its uniform request that included community feedback on the proposal. The school sent home a survey to current and incoming students’ families, and results showed that 73 percent of families completing the survey supported adopting uniforms.
Wright also created an advisory council made up of students, parents and Wright staff to draft the uniform policy.
Board member TJ Mertz opposed the decision for several reasons, including increased costs for families and the idea that uniforms may discourage students from attending Wright.
Mertz also argued that enforcing a school uniform policy may be more of a distraction for students than allowing them to express their personal style.
Nicki Vander Meulen, who was also sworn in as a new board member Monday night, opposed the policy on the grounds of student self-expression. She referenced a line from the Supreme Court decision, Tinker vs. Des Moines: “You don’t give up your rights at the schoolhouse gate.”