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Schools: Safety Driving Concern Behind Uniforms

October 23, 2012
By SARAH HARMON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

A proposed uniform policy that was scheduled for a vote Monday by the Ohio County Board of Education was again a point of concern for school employees during a meeting at West Liberty Elementary School.

The policy which would require all child nutrition, custodial, facilities and maintenance and transportation employees of Ohio County schools to wear a designated shirt and pants to work, was tabled by a unanimous vote from board members after union representatives voiced opposition to the terms of the policy regarding disciplinary action for failure to wear the uniform.

Debbie Baker, representative from the United School Service Employee Association, cited termination as employees' major concern about the policy.

Article Photos

Photo by Sarah Harmon
Ohio County Board of Education President James Jorden and Superintendent Dianna Vargo address a proposed uniform policy during the board’s meeting at West Liberty Elementary School on Monday.

"In this policy you are putting termination, which I think is very strong and very harsh for not wearing a uniform," Baker said. "I would like to see termination removed from that. I'm concerned about discrimination by picking only certain service personnel to implement those."

Judy Goodson, staff representative from the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, proposed that the uniform policy be amended with language that is "more clearly defined" in terms of disciplinary action.

"I hoped we'd be able to table it to look at the other county policies and come up with some different language," Goodson said. "The uniforms are not the issue with the county, the issue is the language and the policy."

Fact Box

- The Ohio County Board of Education will have a special meeting at 8 a.m. Monday in the board office in Elm Grove. The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at Wheeling Park High School.

Goodson listed situations in which an employee may be unfairly required to wear a uniform, including soiling uniforms well before they are scheduled to be cleaned, the quality of care received when uniforms are cleaned, sizing issues for female employees and employees' religious preferences regarding women wearing pants.

Superintendent Dianna Vargo addressed the concerns, saying the school system offers a women's line of styles and gives employees a variety of styles and materials from which to choose. She also responded to possible religious concerns by stating the board considers every individual's needs.

"We meet with our employees and we look into each situation," Vargo said. "We met with our association representatives and had a discussion with them several times before bringing it to the board of education. We currently have all transportation employees wearing a uniform underneath the same policy we presented this evening."

Again, the board cited safety as the primary reason driving the policy.

"We have a concern on the liability side. We have people who are out interacting with our students where there might not be adult supervision, a uniform is an identifying factor," board member Shane Mallett said.

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