New school’s uniform requirement creates storm with parents

Tambark Elementary’s policy has some up in arms at the Everett School District’s newest campus.

MILL CREEK — Uniforms will be the norm at Everett Public Schools’ newest elementary school, and the style isn’t all the rage with parents.

Tambark Creek Elementary School, at the southern end of the school district, will be just the third public school in Snohomish County to require school uniforms.

“The decision to open Tambark Creek with uniforms was made to support our efforts to promote inclusivity and a sense of belonging, reduce distractions, and provide an environment for our students that is safe and orderly,” Kathy Reeves, the district’s director of communications, said in an email Friday. “It is part of defining the culture of the new school.”

Similar policies are in place at Whittier and Hawthorne elementary schools on the north side of the district.

The new K-5 Tambark Creek will draw 600 students from three existing schools. Reeves said uniforms will support the transition.

But parents at the new school say the district’s decision on uniforms lacked transparency.

“It sort of feels like they are trying to sneak this in on us,” said Steve Schiebel, whose daughter, Elena, will be entering fifth grade at Tambark Creek. He also criticized what he called the district’s “very poor communication,” once they decided to require uniforms.

“That doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies about the whole situation,” he said.

Elena Schiebel, 10, already was emotional about making the switch from Forest View Elementary to Tambark Creek in her final year of elementary school, her father said. The uniform decision only compounds her worries and makes it hard to put a positive light on the switch.

“It’s been sort of a double whammy,” Steve Schiebel said.

An online petition launched this week asked the district to suspend the uniform policy until parents and students have a say. It had almost 200 signatures as of Friday. Parents also expressed anger on local Facebook groups.

“I will not allow my daughter to be stripped of her freedom to dress. We were transferred from (Forest View Elementary), with no choice, and I am signing because our children have a choice!! No way will my daughter ever wear a uniform to public school,” one mom wrote.

Other parents questioned the district’s communication, saying they wouldn’t have known about the uniform mandate, but for posts on social media.

The decision was at the discretion of new Tambark Creek Principal Celia O’Connor-Weaver and her leadership team. It was announced to families at a PTSA meeting in May. Since then, the school added information about uniforms to its website and sent out mailers.

While noting that communication can always be improved, O’Connor-Weaver said the petition urging dialogue will not sway her.

“There have been some families who are vocal about (not) liking school uniforms, but there have also been some great supporters,” she said. “Not every decision is going to make everyone happy, and in this case school is moving forward with uniforms.”

According to the school’s website, uniform guidelines include: pants, capris, shorts, skorts, skirts or jumpers that are either navy blue or khaki, paired with a polo shirt, button down shirt or turtleneck that must be navy blue or white. Jackets must be navy blue and tights have to be navy blue or white.

Jeans, sweatpants or yoga pants are not permitted.

Steve Schiebel said the uniforms are encouraging conformity as opposed to diversity.

“In an era when we should be promoting individuality, covering up our differences isn’t the answer,” he said. “We need to be teaching tolerance and acceptance of our differences, and that will make us stronger as opposed to trying to pretend they aren’t there.”

According to the district, there are no plans to require uniforms district-wide.

Decisions on the matter will continue to be reviewed on a school-by-school basis.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3449; Twitter: IanDavisLeonard.

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