The change to uniforms, due in part to safety concerns, has Reed administrators still ironing out minor kinks in their dress code and seeing continually fewer students having troubles obeying the policy. Principal Mary Vesco said the change was not in immediate response to any one incident, but a plan of the school beginning about five years ago when it applied for accreditation with the Northwest Association for Schools and Colleges.
“Five years ago, one of the goals of our accreditation application was to adopt them (uniforms) as a safety issue and we originally wanted to have them in the school year of 2011-12,” Vesco said. “We were ready to implement it but there is so much literature involved and we thought it would be better to do some more research.”
Vesco, Reed administrators and student committees on campus collaborated to inform parents and students of the upcoming changes and begin selecting the new style. Vesco said involving faculty and parents in the decision to move to uniforms has helped make the transition much smoother.
“As with anything new, you expect some challenges and we were prepared for a lot of issues when we brought (the uniforms) in,” said Brandon Bringhurst, assistant principal for discipline at Reed. “We found out that we are actually over prepared. The school did a great job of getting the information out to parents and students, but you never think of everything. We will need continual revisions and we will continue improving the guidelines each year.”
Reed students are required to have their uniform on during school hours beginning at 7 a.m. and may remove them once school concludes, according to Athletic Director Ron Coombs. He said athletes and club participants don’t lose the ability to represent their respective organizations on game days.
“Students have the shirts and clothes that come in their spirit pack, with things like Reed Football on the front, and they can wear those with their khakis on competing days,” Coombs said. “I think students like that flexibility because for the vast majority of them this is pretty new.”
Students at Reed who are not new to uniform requirements are those coming out of Mendive Middle School in Sparks where Principal Scott Grange began instituting uniforms last year. Grange, who was also at the helm of Mendive for one year without the uniform rule, said it was not his first experience installing the new rule having done the same initiative at O’Brien Middle School in Reno.
“You really need to have your reasons. You don’t make a huge community decision like that based on arbitrary information,” he said referring to the notion that uniforms will solve safety concerns.
Grange said during his first year at Mendive he noticed several cliques on campus, many of which “revolved around money and the type of clothing students could afford.” He said his goal in installing uniforms at the school was to put an end to cliques, student-to-student violence and help bring down costs of school clothing.
“In middle school, fitting in is king and academic and family relations can go down the tube when students feel alienated. We can end up losing them no matter how smart they are,” Grange said. “We needed to refocus on what was important and that was academics. When you do research and case studies you find out that uniforms will calm down students in middle school.”
Grange said the school saw about an 80 percent drop in student-to-student violence and an increase in overall test scores school wide. He admits the uniforms “could never be the sole cause of that,” but said they have significantly aided in suppressing violence and boosting student acceptance.
“Last year, because of our test scores, we were a school of choice so we had a lot of students from other schools coming in, and because they were wearing uniforms those kids always felt like they were a part of Mendive,” Grange said. “On the first day last year, I didn’t know what it was going to be like. My son, a sixth-grader at the time, was embarrassed and thought he was going to be the only one in his uniform because his dad was the principal. And when we showed up he saw two eighth-grade athletes, kids who I consider leaders, coming to campus in their full uniforms. His first-day jitters went right away after that.”
A sense of pride and equalization have been added bonuses for students succumbing to the uniform dress code at Reed, but students prefer the term “convenient” when describing the benefits of the new uniforms.
“You don’t get up in the morning and have to look for something you want to wear, you already know what you’re wearing,” Reed senior Ingrid Gomez said. “(The worst part is) you look the same every day.”
Sophomore Adam Johnson said switching to uniforms may have helped stave off cases of violence.
“I think in some ways it has eliminated violence, but I didn’t see much of it before. I don’t think we are really a school for fighting,” he said. “For me, personally, I think it is convenient and I don’t have to go out and buy all new clothes for the school year. I know what I’m wearing each morning when I get up.”
Reed is one of the first high schools in Washoe County to begin wearing uniform shirts, which are sold at the Student Store on campus. Prices range from $13 to $21 depending on size and style of polo shirt and Vesco said the cost covers exactly what the school pays for the shirts.
Vesco also noted that some teachers, though it is not required, have started wearing the uniform top during classes and school events, which she said provides a positive role model for the students. When asked what advice they would offer other schools looking into switching to uniforms, Reed administrators agreed parent and student involvement are imperative.
“You have to have good communications with parents, have students involved on committees and even get the faculty involved because it really does affect everybody,” Vesco said.
“We had to research other schools in the country who had done this before us and the students, parents and everyone had a hand in making the policy,” Coombs said. “You have to listen and get input from all angles. The kids have some good ideas and they know how to make the transition a lot easier on the students.”