A new elementary school in Bothell will be require its students to adhere to a uniform dress code.
Tambark Creek Elementary School is scheduled to open this fall. Located at 4419 180th St. SE, the school will be the learning home for 600 students in grades K-5.
Tambark Creek will also become the third elementary school in the Everett School District (ESD) to adopt a site-specific uniform dress code. Hawthorne Elementary School will also adopt a school uniform dress code for the first time this fall. Whittier Elementary School was the first school in the district to adopt a uniform dress code in 1995.
Tambark Creek’s uniform dress code will consist of navy and khaki clothing. Unlike many private school uniforms, Tambark Creek will not require families to purchase clothing with a school-specific crest or emblem. A full description of Tambark Creek’s uniform dress code, along with the names of stores to purchase the clothes, can be found on the school’s website.
Larry Fleckenstein, assistant superintendent for ESD, said the uniform dress code is not a district-wide policy — meaning uniform dress codes are chosen and decided upon by the school officials and the PTA.
The decision to open Tambark Creek with uniforms was made to support the school’s efforts to promote inclusivity and a sense of belonging, reduce distractions, and provide an environment for students that is safe and orderly.
Tambark Creek’s new principal Celia O’Connor-Weaver said it is part of defining the culture of the new school. When opening a new school, she said, there are many decisions to make.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What do we want to be focused on?’” O’Connor-Weaver said.
For Tambark Creek, the school’s eight guiding principles include accessibility, inclusiveness, transparency and community.
“The uniforms will support inclusivity and create a safe environment for our students,” Fleckenstein said. “A lot of students struggle with finding a sense of belonging when they come to school and the new dress code will help create an instant sense of belonging.”
According to ESD, district data on social-emotional learning from Panorama indicates the two biggest issues students are dealing with are inclusivity and a sense of belonging.
“Acknowledging that need, along with gathering students currently in three different schools into one new school, emphasizes the need to provide an inclusive, welcoming environment, which uniforms support,” according to the district.
According to Fleckenstein and O’Connor-Weaver, the school uniform dress code will also work to create a strong sense of school spirit and pride.
Parents were notified of the new uniform dress code for Tambark Creek at the PTA meeting in May. The Tambark Creek Fast Facts were developed on June 10 and placed on the website and mailed to all Tambark Creek families. On June 26, the Tambark Creek website was updated with uniform facts and options.
While the district said many parents have shared positive feedback about the new school uniform dress code, other parents in the district are not happy with the new school uniform dress code.
A petition through Change.org was launched July 7 by Ian McMillan. The petition opposes the enforcement of the uniform dress code at Tambark Creek.
Petition supporters said the district did not consult parents and students when the decision was made to enforce a school uniform dress code.
“This decision was made unethically, and without any input or prior notification to parents and students” the petition description reads. “…Having our children’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression through their clothing taken away without discussion or representation is demoralizing, and erodes the values being taught in terms of civil rights and the freedoms our Constitution guarantees us (including children). Site specific dress code changes need to be made with PTA and school administration as equal partners.”
As of publication, the petition has 240 signatures.
At the July 2 ESD school board meeting, James Richardson, a resident of the district, addressed the school board with an opposition to the school uniform dress code.
He requested the district to postpone “the imposition of this unethically imposed uniform policy until the 2020-2021 school year.”
“I request the school district to devolve the decision regarding any site-specific dress code alterations to the PTA of the new school, who in coordination with the principal shall jointly, with parental involvement, decide on whether a uniform or a site-specific alteration to the district dress code should prevail at all at the school starting next year,” Richardson said at the school board meeting.
Richardson said social cohesion in school can be created with “charismatic leadership, clear values that are enforced and structured routines.” He also said anti-social behavior in social groups can be prevented through “charismatic leadership, clear communication of behavioral standards and quick disciplinary intervention.”
“There is no need for this district to interfere with a child’s creative self-expression through clothing in order to obtain polite attendance at an elementary school,” he said. “In districts like ours, children are constantly corrected and told ‘no’ because they’re already held to a high behavioral standard. Let them enjoy picking their own clothing when they go to school.”
The school district has no plans at this time to suspend the Tambark Creek school uniform dress code.