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Florida legislation encourages school uniforms

Legislation offers $10 per student incentive for districts that adopt uniforms

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House of Representatives was expected to give tentative approval Thursday afternoon to make it easier for school districts to adopt standard uniform policies for kindergarten through eight grade.

Uniforms are already allowed, but this legislation offers an encouragement.

The legislation offers a $10 per student incentive for districts that adopt uniforms, or as the Legislature like to call it "standard student attire."

State Rep. Joe Geller initially hated the idea.

"I thought, 'Well, that's going to destroy creativity, enhances conformity, it can't be a good thing,'" Geller said.

But then Geller said he heard the facts.

"It reduces bullying, and it reduces teasing and reduces kids saying, 'You know, you're not in the right clothes,'" said Geller.

Five districts already have uniforms. Sponsor Rep. Janet Adkins asked district officials to testify about the experience.

"They were all saying the same thing and that is when they implemented a school uniform policy in their schools, the climate, the culture at their schools improved," Adkins said. "It's an issue of school safety, helps with school truancy."

Even the supporters of the idea worry about the students who can't afford uniforms. Some schools in Sarasota, which Rep. Ray Pilon represents. also require uniforms. He said cost is an issue for some.

"I think all of the things about uniforms and peer pressure are good," Pilon said. "I just want to make sure that those who have the least can also take advantage of it, and I'm sure we'll work that out."

There are nearly 2 million students in kindergarten through eight grade. The $10 million appropriation attached to the bill is enough for about half the schools to share the stipend on a first-come basis.

The five counties with district wide uniforms are Alaucha, Bay, Madison, Polk and Osceola.