Monday, May 18, 2009

MNPS Opt-outs of SSA announced

After long delay, MNPS has announced that seven schools—nearly all of those which consulted its parents in a sustained manner—will be opting out of MNPS's uniform policy, Standard School Attire, and be returning to normal school clothing. Perhaps more significant, MNPS is also dropping its mandatory punishments for SSA, and allowing each school to do what is appropriate, if anything. Most schools will also be implementing other changes. The entire program is set to expire next year, although there will be those who wish to see it renewed. MPASS remains committed to the ideals that such programs should be research-based, developed at the local school-by-school level, and always allow for opt-outs for those families for which such cultural programs as SSA are inappropriate.

The following links carry the announcement:

Nashville City Paper: early notice of the process:
Metro schools may soon be allowed to opt out of SSA.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 1:20am

Metro schools will opt out or change dress code in fall
By Nancy DeVille • THE TENNESSEAN • May 22, 2009

MNPS Attire: Seven Schools Opt Out
By Bruce Barry in "Pith in the Wind," The Nashville Scene

Seven Nashville schools to shed uniforms
Most in Metro will relax standards
By Jaime Sarrio • THE TENNESSEAN • May 7, 2009

Several schools choose to opt out of standard attirePosted: May 1, 2009 06:09 PM CDT

7 Metro Schools Opt Out Of Standard Attire
Schools To Use Own Discipline Guidelines For Violations
By Jonathan Martin. WSMV-TV updated 8:21 a.m. CT, Mon., May 11, 2009

Fox news: Some Metro Schools Ditch Standard School Attire-Cindy Carter

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Metro Uniform Policy Spurs Film

A former Metro student, now in film school in Chicago, and another local Nashville filmmaker have based their entries in a student film contest on the Metro uniform policy, also known as "standard school attire." The 30-second public service announcements, submitted to a free speech and students' rights film competition, are available on YouTube at

and in a better quality format at

Thursday, July 19, 2007

School Uniform Policy Still in the News

Though it does not address the issues behind MPASS's opposition to school uniforms, this July 18 article from The Tennessean does mention that opposition exists and that similar policies have prompted lawsuits in other districts.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Opt-Out Provision Still to Be Decided

On Tuesday, the Metro Legal Department released a legal summary on the proposed uniform policy. The full legal opinion is still being drafted, but according to the summary, there appear to be some vulnerable areas of the policy, including in regard to opt-outs.

From the MNPS website: "The memo notes some minor areas of the policy which need further clarification, a task which will be easily accomplished before the policy goes to the Metro Board of Education as part of the regular 30-day notification process for policy changes." (This refers to the requirement that a policy change be presented to the school board at least 30 days before it is implemented, which in this case means 30 days prior to the first day of school.)

Media response so far:
Pith in the Wind
City Paper

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

School Board Meeting tonight

Metro's legal department is expected to report to the school board tonight in regard to the proposed school uniform policy. A number of MPASS members will be speaking, primarily about the need for a moral/conscientious opt-out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All Cart, No Horse

Despite the fact that the proposed uniform policy for Metro schools is still under review by Metro legal counsel and has not yet been brought back before the school board (as Director Garcia implied he would when the "concept" of school uniforms was approved April 10), many schools in the district are sending home information about what clothing children will be able to wear next year. In yet another example of the administration's disregard for proper procedure, MNPS has also posted additional information on its website regarding the uniform requirements:

It is never too late to let your voice be heard. The process the administration has followed and the concept of school uniforms itself are both deeply flawed. Write school board members and the media using the links to the right, or request to speak at the June 12 school board meeting: Email your name, address, phone number, email address, speaker and topic, and board meeting date to You can find more details about requesting to speak at

Friday, May 4, 2007

MPASS to Metro Schools: Stick to the Facts and Stop the Propaganda on Uniforms


MAY 4, 2007—The recent arrest of a Jere Baxter Alternative School student suspected of concealing a rifle in his pants on a Metro bus has prompted a wave of propaganda from MNPS spokespeople, falsely using the situation to promote the district's expected uniform policy for the 2007-2008 school year.

Metro Parents Against Standard Attire (MPASS) takes exception to comments in the press this week by Ralph Thompson, MNPS assistant superintendent for student services, and Woody McMillin, MNPS spokesperson, said Laura Creekmore, releasing this statement:

"Both Thompson and McMillin asserted that a Metro-wide school uniform policy could prevent situations like this week's arrest of a student suspected of carrying a gun on a Metro bus. Yet they are ignoring some critical facts:

"The student arrested this week was never on MNPS property in possession of a firearm, but instead was waiting for and riding a Metro bus when the rifle was discovered. We doubt that MTA bus drivers, employed by Davidson Transit Organization, will be charged with enforcing the MNPS uniform policy next year.

"Even more egregious, the charged student attends Jere Baxter Alternative School, which requires standard attire now. Clearly, the school's existing standard attire policy did not prevent this incident.

"MPASS urges Metro schools to stick to the facts when talking about school uniforms."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SSA and SLC: Not All School Policies Are Created Equal!

April 25, 2007 (Nashville, TN)—Last night’s presentation to the Metro school board about the school system’s planned implementation of Small Learning Communities (SLC) stood in stark contrast to the recently approved concept of Standard School Attire (SSA). While school board members and MNPS Director Garcia himself spoke in favor of redesigning high schools into individual, personalized communities, they seem to have forgotten that the basic philosophy behind SLC is in direct opposition to the principles behind SSA, points out parent advocate group MPASS.

“Small learning communities that are implemented correctly have been shown to improve student achievement,” said MPASS member Diane Willard. “Unlike the school uniform program, this reform is grounded in research and based on facts.”

Other hallmarks of SLC include a grassroots, nonadministration-driven approach; wholesale involvement of parents and community; and—most importantly—recognition of and respect for each school’s individuality. Those presenting SLC information to the school board last night emphasized that SLC is about schools making decisions for themselves—“What works at White’s Creek might not work at McGavock”—and that each school will have autonomy in its efforts to improve student achievement. School board member Gracie Porter commented that she was glad each school would look different, while school board chair Marsha Warden commended the reform’s reliance upon best practices in education—again, another striking difference between SLC and the planned implementation of SSA, which flies in the face of state and national guidelines regarding school uniform policy.

“Our schools are not one-size-fits-all,” said MPASS member Laura Creekmore. “Why does the school board recognize this when discussing small learning communities, but ignore it when it comes to school uniforms? There is an underlying inconsistency in philosophy here.”

Moral Opt-Out a Must

MNPS will most likely present a final proposed uniform policy to the school board in upcoming weeks. Director Garcia has indicated that he has no intention of including an opt-out policy for those who object to school uniforms on moral, philosophical, or conscientious grounds. But his claim that an opt-out will hamper the policy is not based in fact. The very districts held up by the administration in promoting SSA—Memphis and Long Beach, CA—have broad opt-out policies. Memphis has not released its opt-out data, but Long Beach reports that only 2 percent of parents choose to opt out of the program. In a district the size of MNPS, that would come to about 1,480 of 74,000 students, too small a number to have any effect on the overall policy—but significant enough to indicate to parents that their personal beliefs are being respected.

“Other districts have found it wise to include this kind of opt-out,” says MPASS member Ashley Crownover. “NYC, Miami, the entire state of California—all these districts have an opt-out, presumably because they don’t want to be sued for violating parents’ rights.”

A number of legal cases are currently underway throughout the United States regarding parents being forced to adhere to a school uniform policy they do not believe in. According to a legal analysis conducted by the ACLU of Tennessee, the policy’s current opt-outs for medical and religious reasons threaten students’ legally protected rights to privacy. Students are given the ability to obtain an exemption for medical reasons, but the burden is then placed on the student to reveal confidential health information to school administrators in order to justify an exemption.

Further, the existing policy raises important concerns about possible infringements on students’ religious freedom. Although there is a religious exemption, it is narrowly constructed to include only “bona fide” religions as determined by a school administrator. School officials will exceed their bounds should they try to make such judgments, and doing so will invite legal challenges under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

“These potentially serious legal problems could most likely be avoided with an opt-out for moral, philosophical, or conscientious reasons,” said MPASS member Ashley Crownover. “We hope the school board will show that they care about ALL Metro families, not just those who believe as they do, and insist on a moral opt-out.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MNPS Administration Ignoring Parents' Concerns About a Sensible Opt-Out

Director Garcia makes it clear once again that working with parents is not a high priority for him: City Paper article 4-24-07

Now is the time to let the school board and the media know that not including an opt-out in the uniform policy will cause a variety of problems, including potential legal challenges and the alienation of parents.

Click on the link to the right to email the school board.

Email or write a letter to the editor:

* The Tennessean:
* The Nashville Scene:
* Nashville City Paper:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Email the Director of Schools

The school board will meet April 24, during which the school administration may present its revised uniform policy. Email the director of schools to insist on an opt-out for those morally opposed to uniforms.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sensible Opt-Out Is a Must!

The current draft of the MNPS uniform policy does not include an opt-out for those who object to uniforms on conscientious grounds. This is a must. Click here to email all school board members at once.

What Will My Child Have to Wear?

The following is a summary of Metro's uniform policy as it stands right now. It is currently under revision. See the entire policy here.

• Shirts must have collars and be solid white, navy blue, or one of four additional solid colors designated by each school

• Straight-leg or boot-cut pants; cropped pants; straight-legged capri pants—all of dress or casual-dress style (e.g., Dockers) in the colors of navy blue, black, or khaki

• Dresses must have a collar and be of a solid, approved color

• No blouses or shirts without buttons along the front opening

• T-shirts may be worn beneath polos but must be solid white, navy blue, or an approved solid color (with no writing)

• Clothing with belt loops must be worn with a belt

• Blazers, suit jackets, vest, sweaters, and cardigans must be in an approved color and must be worn over a shirt or dress with a collar

• No denim jeans or hooded sweatshirts

• Blouses and shirts must be tucked

• Clothing logos or manufacturer trademarks must be no larger than two inches

• All clothing must be hemmed—no drawstrings, cut-offs, or rolled-up cuffs

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Board Approves "Concept," not Policy

Nashville Scene writer Bruce Barry explains the difference at Pith in the Wind.

Urge the Board to Insist on Opt-Out

While Metro school board members voted last night to approve a proposed standard school attire policy, the discussion would have been much different had parents and other interested parties not been involved. The two school board members who voted against the policy—David Fox and Mark North—obviously based their decisions in part on the SSA “study” committee’s flawed process and the research showing that uniforms have no positive effect on students. Further, the school board also discussed legal ramifications and the opt-out policy, two important issues that our group has been instrumental in bringing to the fore.

We urge you to keep emailing the board to insist on an equitable opt-out program for those who object on principle to the uniforms called "standard school attire."

The students who spoke and attended last night are to be commended for their initiative and dedication to what they believe in. This is not something that everyone appreciates, and in fact, some of the youth felt attacked by the negative comments several speakers made about magnet schools and “perfect children.” We are proud of our students from both magnet and nonmagnet schools, and disappointed in a system that believes equity can come from oppression.

Thank you again for your commitment to this issue.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

We will gather for a rally Tuesday in advance of the school board meeting.

When: Tuesday, April 10
Where: The MNPS central administration building,
2601 Bransford Ave.

Gather: 3:30 p.m.
Protest: 4 p.m.
School Board Meeting: 5 p.m.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Opponents of Proposed SSA Policy to Hold Rally at School Board

April 7, 2007 (Nashville, TN)—Parents and students opposed to the proposed uniform requirement for Metro public schools will gather Tuesday afternoon for a rally at the MNPS central administration building at 2601 Bransford Ave. The protest is planned for 4 p.m. in advance of the 5 p.m. school board meeting, during which the school board is expected to vote on the proposed policy.

“We urge school board members to vote no on this ill-conceived and poorly constructed policy,” said Ashley Crownover of Metro Parents Against Standard School Attire (MPASS). “The process leading to the policy was biased, did not follow Tennessee State Board of Education guidelines, and has resulted in a deeply flawed product that has the potential to expose the school system and the taxpayers to a myriad of costly legal headaches.”

The proposed standard school attire (SSA) policy is unnecessary given existing Metro schools policy, which already allows individual schools to require standard attire. A handful of Metro schools—such as Isaac Litton Middle School—already have a standard attire requirement in place. “Duplicating the existing policy and inflicting SSA on school communities that do not want it makes no sense,” said MPASS member Tricia Blumenthal, “especially in light of the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that shows standard school attire does what it has been claimed to do—namely, improve student behavior or achievement. It just doesn’t do that, and school officials who insist that it will are ignoring the research. Is that what we want our school system teaching our kids? To ignore the research evidence?”

MPASS member Dean Masullo notes that the list of speakers granted time in front of the school board on Tuesday appears to have been “arranged” so that those favoring the policy come last. “It is notable that Director Garcia will be the last to speak, preceded by Ralph Thompson, Garcia's assistant superintendent in charge of student services,” says Masullo. “We already know that the ‘study’ process leading to this proposal has been tainted all along by a pro-SSA bias, so it comes as no surprise that pro-SSA administrators want to rig the ‘public’ part of the school board meeting in their favor as well.”

Should school board members vote for the policy despite the evidence and the legal risks, they can be certain it won’t end there, said Crownover. “This is our children’s education we’re talking about,” she said. “We hope that the school board will be guided by reason, but if not, we will continue working to ensure that Nashville’s education policy is based on facts, not educational fads.”

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Report on Student Rally

Student organizer Charles Badger reports on the success of yesterday's rally here.

See Melissa Penry's News 2 video report here.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Student Rally Today!

Metro students have organized a “Rally for Reality” today at Centennial Park to show their opposition to the district's proposed SSA policy.

When: Today, April 6, from 1-2 p.m.
Where: Centennial Park, 25th Ave. N & West End, across the street from the Wendy's

The rally will include a letter-writing campaign to Dr. Garcia and School Board members. Students AND parents are invited!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

SSA Committee Misrepresented Scholarly Research

MPASS member Mark Schoenfield has interviewed David Brunsma, PhD, the nation's leading researcher on standard school attire. This information was sent to the board today; cover letter is reprinted below. Read the interview here.

April 5, 2007

Dear Board Members,

I write to raise a very serious issue regarding the misrepresentation of David Brunsma’s work in the presentations to you by the SSA Committee. Because Professor Brunsma is the leading researcher in the field and because his reputation, like that of all PhDs, depends on his integrity, it is important that you be aware of this impropriety. Further, because Professor Brunsma’s work was not given an adequate hearing, and instead pages and pages were spent on marketing surveys, incomplete data, and unreliable surveys, it is clear that the repeated “belief” of the committee is nothing more than that—a belief deeply held, no doubt, but unsubstantiated. To follow a recommendation based on such flawed work is a violation of public trust.

The key misrepresentations that the Committee has perpetrated are:
1) That Dr. Brunsma said his work to be inconclusive. He knows that its conclusions are scientifically valid.
2) That his work is not relevant to “Standard School Attires” and that “Standard School Attires” are not uniforms. SSA is the typical public school uniform.
3) That there is insufficient research in this field and that other studies have not corroborated his work. His research both represents the best work in the field, but further has been substantially corroborated by additional studies.

I do understand that these principals felt they were under tremendous pressure to produce a particular result, but to misrepresent a scholar in the field in order to achieve it is unacceptable. It raises, I think, serious questions about the top-down nature of the current organization of the School System and the problems of a doctrine of ruling by “fear.”

Because the SSA Committee never provided a chance to hear from an expert on this matter, I am attaching my interview with Dr. Brunsma. Beside addressing these substantive misrepresentations, he also provides other useful information. I urge you to read his work, just as I urged the Committee to do so, but this interview certainly points to the highlights which make clear that the District-wide implementation of SSA is a very bad policy choice. He also puts the “tuck-in” regulation in an appropriate perspective. I am certain he would be willing to discuss the matter more with the board.


Mark Schoenfield

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

ACLU Releases Legal Analysis of Proposed SSA Policy

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has conducted a legal analysis of Metro's proposed standard school attire policy. Read the analysis here.

In response, MPASS has issued the following statement:

April 4, 2007 (Nashville, TN)—The proposed uniform requirement for Metro public schools is not just bad educational policy; it also exposes the school system to serious legal risks, according to a legal analysis released Wednesday by the ACLU of Tennessee.

The analysis indicates that the school board will risk costly and potentially successful lawsuits if it adopts the “Standard School Attire” (SSA) policy slated for a board vote next Tuesday. “We already knew that this proposal was based on a biased study process that drew flawed conclusions contrary to research evidence on school uniforms,” said Ashley Crownover of MPASS (Metro Parents Against Standard School Attire), a group committed to the distribution of relevant information and research about SSA and opposed to its district-wide implementation. “Now, experts are asserting that the board is on the verge of adopting a policy that is legally very troubling, and potentially costly for the taxpayers of Nashville.”

The ACLU of Tennessee’s letter to the school board identified a number of potentially serious legal problems with the policy recommended to the school board last week by its SSA study committee. Among them are constitutional questions raised by aspects of the proposal that permit students to use their clothing to convey certain messages (such as clothing brands and school emblems) while disallowing expression of all other viewpoints. Another troubling provision in the proposal allows for certain designated groups, such as athletes and student clubs, to receive exemptions from the SSA requirements. School administrators would have discretion to determine who qualifies for these exemptions and who doesn’t.

These policies invite legal challenges on grounds of impermissible “viewpoint discrimination” if school administrators are permitted to make subjective decisions regarding which student groups and messages are “acceptable” and which are not.

The proposed SSA policy also threatens students’ legally protected rights to privacy by virtue of the procedure it creates for opting out of the requirement. The policy gives students the ability to obtain an exemption for medical reasons, but then puts the burden on the student to reveal confidential health information to school administrators in order to justify an exemption.

Lastly, the proposed policy raises important concerns about possible infringements on students’ religious freedom. Although the policy does allow for a religious exemption, the exemption is narrowly constructed to include only “bona fide” religions as determined by a school administrator. School officials will exceed their bounds should they try to make such judgments, and doing so will invite legal challenges under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

“These legal hazards are neither theoretical nor remote,” said MPASS’s Crownover. “They are the very real risks of a policy that was poorly conceived and carelessly constructed. The school board next Tuesday should just say no.”