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Lathrop implements voluntary common dress for upcoming 2011-12 school year
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LATHROP - A “voluntary common dress” is being implemented at Lathrop Elementary when the new school year starts in August.

Eighty-three parents have committed to send their children to school in three basic colors - yellow, white, and black - and stick to polo shorts, blue jeans or khakis including shorts, skirts, and blouses.

Lathrop Parent Teacher Club President April Victorine, one of the parents spearheading the effort, noted the move is to try and eliminate kids from pressuring parents to “one-up” or match clothing of other students, and to guard against students inadvertently - or on purpose - dressing in gang colors.

She noted the colors were chosen “to show school spirit” since they are the colors for the Lathrop Warriors.

A survey conducted of parents showed that among those who participated and returned the forms that 70 percent favored a school uniform policy. Even so, under district policy there would have to be an opt out option.

That is what prompted the decision to try a “voluntary common dress” policy at the same time as the school tightens down on what it allows in the form of general dress.

“It is hard to get 100% participation if the uniforms were mandated, because there would have to be an opt out option,” noted Principal David Silveira in an e-mail.  “(It was) another reason for doing a voluntary program.  We’ll see what happens and see if this combined with every other incentive we have in place helps our students.”

A number of students were expected to wear examples of the common dress today. A photo will be taken of the student models and distributed as part of a newsletter going out to parents.

Victorine said she is hopeful the volunteer common dress will take pressure off financially strapped and low-income families who may feel their children have to dress in trendy and often expensive style so as not to be feeling ostracized.

Victorine spends $1,000 a year on school clothes for her two children. By switching to a uniform look she expects to save about $500 and still have summer and winter school clothing needs covered.

The Lathrop PTC will purchase a number of clothing items to make items available to poorer families. Plans also call for “recycling” gently used common dress items so that when kids grow out of them other kids at the school can obtain them to further reduce costs to hard-pressed families.

Victorine noted that the effort is as much about promoting student safety from gang issues as it is about reducing costs.

“A lot of our parents think that gangs are problems in places like Manteca and Stockton and not here,” Victorine said. “Lathrop has some of the same concerns.”

Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker noted that while violence - or harassment - related to kids inadvertently wearing gang colors isn’t a major problem it does happen.

He noted an incident a few years back when a girl wearing Sierra High colors was jumped and beaten as she walked from school by gang members who believed she was an opposing gang member from the colors she was wearing. Bricker said she wasn’t a gang member.

“It could help improve safety,” Bricker said of a school uniform policy.

Silveira offered his opinion that a voluntary common dress policy isn’t something that would work at this time for every campus in the Manteca Unified School District.

“My parents have been asking for it, so I am up to trying it at least once and see what impact it has on our school community,” Silveira noted.