Emerson is the latest public school in Minneapolis to require uniforms
Students entering Emerson Dual Language Elementary in Loring Park this fall won’t be wearing neon-colored shirts or tops with their favorite superheroes.
That’s because Magnetic School is the latest of the Minneapolis public schools to implement a dress code, requiring its students to pair a solid-color red, blue, black, or white top with blue, black, or khaki pants. . The move came after a school-wide vote that showed 55% of families were in favor of adding uniforms.
“My thought on uniforms has always been that it should be a community decision,” said Jim Clark, manager of Emerson.
District policy states that “dress standards for the school shall conform to generally accepted standards of the local community. The administration, with the cooperation of students and parents, is encouraged to participate in establishing minimum standards acceptable for student dress.”
In the 2020-2021 school year, five of the city’s public schools – Cityview, Sheridan Arts, Bethune, Hall and Nellie Stone Johnson – required uniforms. That number dropped to just two schools — Cityview and Sheridan, now called Las Estrellas — for the 2021-2022 school year. Like Emerson, Las Estrellas is a bilingual Spanish magnet school.
Elena Espinoza, the mother of first and sixth graders at Emerson, said standardizing student outfits can soften a target of bullying and undo any shame students might have about what they wear. Plus, she said, putting on dedicated school attire can help kids feel ready to learn.
For Adriana Cerrillo, a Minneapolis school board member and tutor to a nephew who attended Emerson, the uniforms represent her culture and that of many Spanish-speaking families at Emerson, where about 56 percent of students are Hispanic. Cerrillo grew up in Mexico, where school uniforms were the norm.
“They also represent the unity between us,” she said.
Some Emerson parents, however, are concerned that the uniform adoption process and voting results may actually represent a split among the families at the school.
“Many uniform supporters have said uniforms will build community, but with a completely divided response in the vote, this process and decision does the opposite,” said Janet Eckhoff, mother of two Emerson students, l a first-year entrant. and the other in third year. She said the policy was a “superficial” attempt to promote an academic culture.
Each family got one vote per student. His two children voted against the uniforms. Teachers also got a vote; 79% of educators who voted supported the new policy. Overall, more than 90% of those who could vote did so.
The complete redesign of the neighborhood reshuffled school boundaries and moved several city magnets more toward the center of town. This meant that Emerson suddenly had new families from other schools.
Clark said some Spanish-speaking families at Emerson wanted to discuss the possibility of adding uniforms, and the discussion began with the site board in the fall of 2021. He then launched a family survey and found that ‘about 65% of those who responded were in favor of a uniform policy.
But some parents expressed concern about the survey, saying it was not representative. The parents’ association held a vote in the spring and the results were announced in June.
Clark says he understands the arguments for and against uniforms, but he said the decision ultimately comes down to the preference of a majority of families.
“There’s nothing particularly good or bad about having them or not having them,” he said. “I think it can go either way.”