South Carolina school uniforms bill faces uphill battle

A South Carolina lawmaker is once again trying to push a bill that would require uniforms in all public schools.

Supporters said the legislation would improve education and save parents money because of the pressure to buy high-end clothes and shoes at the start of every school year.

[READ: House Bill 3050]

In Rock Hill, all five middle schools have required uniforms since 2006. Students at Saluda Trail Middle School, for example, can wear khaki, black or navy pants of shorts, and solid color collared shirts, without logos. The shirts can be golf shirts, button-down, and long-sleeved.

Former Saluda Trail principal Dr. Al Leonard pushed for uniforms when he was there.

"It just takes the pressure off the students. There's a lot of peer pressure particularly on the middle school students trying to fit in, and uniforms just took that away," Leonard said.

Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Williamsburg, wants to require all uniforms at all grade levels.

Parent Tyra Allen told Channel 9 she doesn't believe the requiring uniforms would work at all grade levels.

"Elementary school I think would be good, but middle and high, they get their own identity, and they may want to be more creative," Allen said.

Emily Cook has a middle school student who wears a uniform, but she said letting kids be themselves is more important.

"Honestly, it's very easy for us to get ready in the morning, but I do like for them to be able to have their own individualism," Cook said.

McKnight said requiring uniforms would save parents money, but that's not always the case.

Carolina Krueger helps run a Clothing Closet, which is a ministry of Oakland Baptist Church. It gave out school uniforms to 200 students this past year to families who couldn't afford to buy them.

"They're expensive when you get them off the racks at some of the department stores. They're not cheap," Krueger said.

In 2016, the uniform bill was brought up, but never made it out of committee to a vote. Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, told Channel 9 he expects the same thing to happen this time. He said school districts should be making the decisions on their own.

"This should be parent driven and district driven. It should not be driven from the state as a requirement, and I do not see this bill becoming law," Simrill said.

A House subcommittee was scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday for discussion.

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