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Students support voluntary common dress
Students showing the new voluntary common dress uniform at Lathrop Elementary School are Kevin Moz, Joey Valencia, Michael Victorine, Ashley Victorine, Ireli Pena and Cesar Zaragoza. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

LATHROP – Ashley Victorine doesn’t mind that starting next year she’ll be coming to school in the same outfit as many of her fellow Lathrop Elementary Warriors.

The fourth-grade student, who donned her Lathrop Warrior gear on Tuesday with her brother and several of her friends to show what the new voluntary common dress-code would look like once it begins next school year starting in August, doesn’t think that it’s asking too much of the students,

“I think that it makes everybody at the school even,” Victorine said of the benefits that the program affords. “That way nobody else is showing off and saying that they’re better than anybody else. It evens things out.”

And while the voluntary common dress system is being urged by the school as well as the Lathrop Parent Teacher Club to promote unity, it also serves a dual purpose by preventing students from wearing disruptive or prohibited clothing items on campus.

When Principal David Silveira took over the site, the school’s colors were red and white – something that posed a problem with the extensive gang issues that Lathrop was facing at the time. After talking with the school resource officer and coming up with the idea, it was the Lathrop Elementary students that picked the new colors – black and gold – that just happened to coincide with the colors of the newly opened Lathrop High School.

But the problems with clothing didn’t end there.

As styles evolved, the baggy pants that Silveira had been known to zip-tie if they were sagging too low gave way to the skinny jeans that are fashionable today – pants that also have a penchant to slide down when somebody takes a seat.

“The voluntary common dress just solves a lot of those problems,” Silveira said. “We’re hoping that as parents see other students wearing these voluntary outfits that they’ll follow suit because it looks good, it’s cheaper than regular clothing and it prevents a lot of problems.”

Even though 8th grader Michael Valencia isn’t going to have to worry about the uniform issue, the expressive young man says that there are benefits as well as negatives to the idea and it’s really up to the parents and the student to see where they fit into the equation.

“I think that they’re good because they keep kids out of trouble by preventing them from wearing certain colors,” Valencia said. “There are also some kids who might not like them because it won’t let them express themselves. Personally I enjoy being able to wear my favorite color to school every day, and that’s green.

“There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument.”

Then there are those students who don’t necessarily mind the clothing per se, but don’t want to be seen in them every single day at school.

“It makes me feel like I’m a twin,” said Cesar Zaragoza. “My dad said it made me look nice, and I’d wear it other places but I just don’t want to wear it at school.”

While the school can’t officially impose a uniform rule because the majority of the parents didn’t sign off on it (the PTC says that 70 percent of parents polled said they were in favor), Silveira says that there will be incentives for those who take advantage of the voluntary program – whether it’s something from the cafeteria or a free pencil or something along those lines.

There are also talks, he said, of making the dress code stricter to address certain trends that have been emerging that he feels are both disruptive and possibly dangerous at the same time.

“We’ve had talks about possibly having students come to school with their shirts tucked in,” Silveira said. “One of the things that’s ‘in’ with kids today are wearing shirts that are way too big and they go down and cover their pockets and you can’t tell what might possibly be in there.

“This is a place for learning and we want our students to reflect that when they come on campus. That’s something that we’re still talking about, but it’s not something that we’ve ruled out either.”