marco polo venice airport Lawrence High students cool about uniforms

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For four months now, students at Lawrence High School have had to abide by a new uniform policy requiring them to wear certain colored polo shirts, khaki pants, and black shoes.

And for the most part, Linette Rodriguez has been cool with that. After all, the policy has helped make it easier for her to get dressed in the morning.

“I think they’re going overboard,” said Rodriguez, who wore brown Timberland boots to school one day and quickly found out that school officials were serious: She got detention. “Why can’t we wear some [other colored] Pumas or Tims?”

Since the start of the last academic year, Lawrence High has been divided into six distinct “schools” business management and finance; health and human services; humanities and leadership development; international; math, science, and technology; and performing and fine arts each with its own wing of the sprawling campus, classes, activities, and even graduation ceremony.

The new dress code requires students to wear polos the color of their school year round. And no matter what their school colors are, they must wear all black shoes.

That has some students upset because they can’t wear matching shoes with their colored polos, or even black shoes with a stylish, pink Nike swoosh or blue Puma logo. Students say wearing different shoes is the one way they can express their individuality in a place full of uniforms.

“They want to be able to show a little bit of themselves,” said senior Katherine Ramirez, 17. “They don’t want to be all the same.”

Superintendent of Schools Wilfredo T. Laboy said, however, that getting students used to wearing uniforms including black shoes is preparing them for a professional environment in which they can’t just walk into the workplace wearing bright pink Nikes.

“There’s been some push back, but we’re sticking to our policy,” he said. “It’s something the students have to learn. Every work environment has a dress code. This is ours.”

Laboy said the different color uniforms not only help create identities for the new schools, but also help faculty and staff keep track of the 3,000 or so students in the recently completed $110 million campus. And the black shoes are key, he said, because it prevents students from wearing the colors affiliated with gangs in the area.

So far, campus headmaster Thomas Sharkey said, school officials have had “very few” problems with students not wearing the proper polos and khakis. But he said he occasionally comes across a student trying to sneak in wearing nonconforming shoes.

“We’re being very strict,” Sharkey said.

To make sure students don’t drift off policy, Laboy recently e mailed staff members reminding them to be diligent in the hallways and to make sure students are sticking to the rules, from head to toe.

Rodriguez, a senior in the health and human services school, said she understands the concept of trying to get students thinking about dressing professionally. But she said high school students are still kids and there’s nothing wrong with allowing youngsters to sport “harmless, cute” shoes.

“We’re still high school students. We’re not in college yet,” she said. “They try to say they are preparing us, but keeping us in lockdown isn’t preparing us.”

Rodriguez said that if the policy were changed to allow for different types of shoes, she would head to Foot Locker to get some Pumas.

To be sure, the resistance by students has resulted in a slight change to the policy.

Led by Ramirez, students persuaded School Committee members and school officials two months ago to allow all black sneakers. Previously, students could wear only black dress shoes or black boots.

School Committee member Greg Morris, the sponsor of the uniform policy who recently lost his bid for reelection, said the accommodation showed that the district is still tweaking its dress code and is listening to students’ concerns.

“This is a collaborative effort between parents, students, and community members,” he said.

“We understand that some kids want to express their own styles. As long as it’s not disruptive, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Before the policy was even implemented, Morris noted, the School Committee eased the rules to let students wear different shades of their required colors to allow them to “express themselves.”
marco polo venice airport Lawrence High students cool about uniforms