The overwhelming majority of Cumberland County public school students could wind up with little choice in what they wear to classes each day.
Millville school officials are considering whether students will wear uniforms.
Should they opt for such a policy, the district would join Bridgeton and Vineland as Cumberland County school districts that mandate uniforms. Bridgeton implemented its uniform program in September 2006. Vineland's uniform program begins with the 2013-14 school year.
Bridgeton and Vineland alone accounted for 56 percent of the 27,103 students enrolled in Cumberland County's public schools for the 2012-13 academic year, statistics from the state Department of Education show. Add in Millville, and 78 percent of Cumberland County public school students could one day wear school uniforms.
That also would mean Cumberland Regional High School would be the only high school in Cumberland County without a uniform policy.
No agency in New Jersey fully tracks the number of public school students who wear uniforms. However, New Jersey School Boards Association Deputy Executive Director Frank Belluscio said it is likely that no other county would come close to that 78 percent mark.
"You have so much enrollment concentrated in those (school) districts that it's a unique situation," Belluscio said. "That would be unique, where you have a majority of students wearing uniforms, and a very wide majority."
The possibility of Millville students wearing uniforms was raised recently at a Board of Education meeting by board member David Ennis. Ennis said uniforms may make it easier for many of the district's financially-struggling families to buy school clothes.
Ennis could not be reached for further comment.
Millville Superintendent of Schools David Gentile said the proposal is "still in the talk-about stage." He said the district will set up initial meetings with a committee to review the proposal.
Gentile called the possibility of 78 percent of Cumberland County public school students wearing uniforms an "anomaly."
"I would like to be the person who is manufacturing the uniforms," he said.
There is no clear information as to how many schools or school districts in New Jersey have uniform policies.
One factor is that the state's school districts are not required to report whether they require students to wear uniforms. Another issue is that some uniform policies apply to entire districts while others apply to certain schools within districts.
The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics reported about 12 percent of principals reported their schools required students to wear uniforms in the 1999-2000 academic year. The figure increased to 14 percent for the 2005-06 academic year, according to the center's statistics.
The statistics also show that 47 percent of principals reported their schools as having a "strict dress code" for the 1999-2000 academic year. That figure increased to 55 percent for the 2005-06 academic year. The report did not define "strict dress code."
Bridgeton Board of Education members said when they adopted the uniform policy that it was to serve as a sort of cultural intervention for the district's children. Many of the city's children enter the work force with a limited understanding of how to dress for success, they said.
Bridgeton school officials could not be reached for comment regarding the success of their uniform policy.
Vineland's uniform policy is more widespread than its original plan, which would have allowed each school to decide whether it wanted uniforms, along with the type of uniforms and colors. The change was made after principals told Board of Education members they wanted the policy to be districtwide.
Other South Jersey school districts that require uniforms include Atlantic City and Pleasantville in Atlantic County and Glassboro in Gloucester County.
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