By Aiden Wacksman
At the beginning of this school year, the Oak Hall administrative body, along with a committee made up of students and administrators, implemented uniforms for the Upper School (US) students. This decision has been rather controversial, as some students believe that the new uniforms have lessened their ability to express themselves. Administrators, however, believe that uniforms are necessary, as some students weren’t adhering to last years’ non-uniform dress code.
“I understand the need for uniforms, but I think it’s very unlike Oak Hall,” said Rebecca Lillie, an Oak Hall sophomore. Lillie explained that the dress code from last year set Oak Hall apart from other private schools, and it gave students a sense of individuality. She noted how embroidering clothing, which is a requirement for the current school year, takes a long time for companies to produce, and costs a lot of money. “What if you need a winter coat embroidered,” she asked genuinely. Lillie felt that last years’ dress code provided more freedom, and especially emphasized how it must have been a letdown for 8th graders to learn that they were required to wear uniforms in the US. She articulated that “last year’s dress code was a privilege” for US students, and she was disappointed that it was taken away.
On the other hand, Oak Hall junior Charlie Delatorre believes that the logos on the uniforms aren’t necessary. “I thought last year’s dress code was fine, and the new uniforms are really expensive,” he said. Delatorre, however, has accepted the new uniform policy. “Even though I don’t really like the uniforms, there’s nothing we can do about it, so I’ve just accepted my fate,” he stated.
“The decision to change the dress code came up about five years ago,” said David Jackson, Oak Hall’s Assistant Head of School. When the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) visited Oak Hall during its last accreditation period, the representative explained the only thing the school might need to improve upon is the dress code. The administration experimented with several different options, but uniforms seemed to be the primary solution. “Not only do uniforms lessen concern about what students are wearing, but it’s also beneficial from a security standpoint,” Jackson said. Logos are required on clothing as a means to determine if someone belongs on campus. “I think that uniforms make things easier for both teachers and students,” Jackson stated, while explaining that uniforms provide stability and “clear up any gray areas” about the dress code.
Another reason a uniform dress code was implemented this year was because students were continuously violating dress code in previous years. Teachers had to repeatedly issue dress code violations to students, which became a nuisance throughout the year. Kristin Wilson, an US science teacher, and head of the US science department, is in agreement with the uniform dress code. “As a teacher, the uniforms make it a lot easier for me to monitor the dress code,” she said. Wilson also emphasized how the uniforms are very beneficial from a marketing perspective. “The logos on the uniforms let people know that Oak Hall exists,” she explained.
“Sometimes, people don’t like change, but if it’s for the overall good, we should embrace the change,”RJ Fuhr, US Dean of Students
US English teacher Scott Campbell thought the logos might look better if there was one standard shirt. “Logos on multiple shirts don’t look too good aesthetically,” he said. This, however, is his only critique of the new uniforms, as he believes that it provides a chance for students to not have to worry about what they wear. “If there weren’t any uniforms, there would be a lot of emphasis on what students wear to school,” he said. Campbell hopes the uniform dress code will provide a more studious environment for the students.
Libby Karow, US Spanish teacher, wasn’t originally an advocate of uniforms. She believed students should be able to pick their own clothes. Karow came to the realization that the dress code had become unenforceable, and teachers didn’t want to be the “dress police”. Karow has been pleasantly surprised by the school’s transition to uniforms, stating that she is impressed “both in the way they look and the way the students have accepted them”. She also explained that uniforms have eliminated the constant controversy about the appropriateness of clothing. “Although the Dean of Students is still having to deal with some nuances, overall, [the transition to uniforms] has been successful,” Karow noted.
Uniforms, on a positive note, have made life easier for students like sophomore Jennifer Berthy. “It’s a lot easier to get dressed in the morning,” she said happily. Berthy thinks that the dress code is rather strict but understood that “it’s hard to accommodate to everyone’s needs”.
US Dean of Students, RJ Fuhr, suggested the new uniforms promote the idea of professionalism. “A shirt that isn’t tucked in doesn’t look professional,” he said. “At some point in their lives, students are going to have to dress professionally, so it’s better for them to start doing so now,” he continued. Fuhr stated how the new uniforms have made it easier for him to enforce the dress code, explaining how it “takes the ambiguity out of things”.
John Perlette, Director of the Upper School, concurred with Fuhr, stating that the change to the dress code was for the greater good. He also recalled that a parent survey was conducted 2 years ago, which “indicated there was interest in the idea of uniforms for the upper school”.
“Sometimes, people don’t like change, but if it’s for the overall good, we should embrace the change,” Fuhr noted.
About the author: Aiden Wacksman is an aspiring journalist/author who enjoys eating chocolate, sleeping, and most of all, writing.