This continues a war of words that has been waged since the Board of Education voted in June to make school uniforms mandatory for students in the city's 11 elementary schools.
Although students are not required to wear uniforms until Sept. 25, a good percentage in all the schools did, and these students received awards that varied in the schools from certificates to relief from homework.
With three weeks left before students are required to wear uniforms and parents scrambling to get the uniforms from approved vendors, some parents saw the certificates as making students not yet required to wear uniforms feel bad.
"A lot of people are furious about them," said Laurie Coles, who is a spokesperson for a group of parents opposed to the uniform policy. "Even those people who were in favor of the uniforms before this got angry."
Coles said backorders of uniforms have prevented some parents from putting their kids in uniforms in time for the first day.
"This is Sept. 6, not Sept. 25," she said during a telephone interview. "Some kids may have felt humiliated and degraded because they didn't get certificates when others did. This is the wrong message to send."
Laura DePinto said "bribing" or "scaring" the children was wrong.
"My son is very active and it is wrong to be bribing the children with homework passes because of decisions parents are making, while other children are omitted," she said. "The schools are holding our kids hostage. If they want to punish someone, let them punish me. Let them throw me out of the PTA. I'm the one who is making the decision of what my child wears."
Lisa Downey said administrators should be talking to the parents not the students about the uniforms since the parents are the ones who make the decisions as to what children wear.
"I fail to see what great accomplishment it is for a child to wear what their parents tell them to wear," said Lisa Downey. "This should be the norm and not something deserving a certificate. I have no issue with parents who choose to dress their children in uniforms. They should absolutely have the freedom to do so. By the same token, I should have the freedom to dress my child in appropriate clothing that is not a uniform. I find it upsetting that the BBOE is using the children's natural tendency to want to accomplish something worthy of a certificate to enforce a policy raising so much debate."
Part of the incentive program
School officials said the rewards program was to encourage students who comply, not to make anyone feel bad. Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan said the certificate was part of an incentive program to encourage people to support the uniform policy.
"From the beginning we said we would have positive rewards to help encourage people to support the program," she said. "This is one of those incentives."
She said that certificates of some sort would be given to students who also come into school wearing the uniform when the deadline comes.
"I understand that there are problems getting uniforms," she said. "Some of the packages are short one or two pieces, and the stores want to wait until the packages are complete."
McGeehan said part of the program would involve rewards for compliance, and this will include letters of gratitude to the parents for their cooperation.
She said each school has offered incentives to students from pencils to homework relief as rewards, encouragements or welcome back to school gift for years.
"This is not something new," she said. The certificates and future incentives for the uniform program are part of an effort to bring kids into the culture of school.
"We want to give them as many positive incentives as possible," she said. "This includes being involved with extracurricular activities."
Although some parents are still protesting the uniform policy, McGeehan said most she met were excited about the change.
"I saw the excitement in the students, teachers and parents," she said.
Some parents liked the reward situation
Not all parents objected to reward program, of course, although some thought the certificate program was "a little strange" and not all parents felt negatively towards the certificate program.
"My daughter Lauretta received a certificate," said Robyn Alicea. "I think it was nice that she got a little recognition."
While Alicea did not initially agree with the uniform program, she felt it would be wrong to have her child feel bad by not wearing the uniform.
"If these are the rules, then my daughter will wear a uniform," she said.
She was grateful to Uniformity, which has a store on 27th Street just off Broadway, for adding at no charge the school logo to other uniform articles she had purchased.
"Some parents I talked to who have already purchased the uniforms did not let their kids wear them until they have to," Alicea said. "I think that is mistake. If you have the uniform let the children wear them. Why would you want to make your child stand out?"
While Alicea said she would love to send her little girl to school in a pretty dress, she thinks the uniforms create a "neat appearance."
Cindy Kass, who has a daughter going to Washington School and two sons attending Woodrow Wilson, said she thinks the uniforms are great.
"I wasn't for the uniforms at all in the beginning, especially when we were told we had to buy them from one place," Kass said. "But once the board said we could buy the shirt with logo from Herbert's [Army & Navy Store] and could buy pants wherever we wanted, I thought it was fine."
While the school district has not released an official tally as to how many students wore uniforms on the first day, parents both pro and con have offered unofficial assessments.
Lisa Cooper estimated that less than 25 percent of the student population wore uniforms the first day. Even School No. 14, to which children of many of the city's public officials attend, only saw about half the student population in uniforms on the first day.
A significant number of kids at Washington School complied. Woodrow Wilson School seemed to have half wearing uniforms and half not, Kass said.
Like Alicea, Kass thought the issuing of certificates was something nice.
"I thought it was great that the school took time to acknowledge those that followed the rules," Kass said. "My daughter was ecstatic at receiving a certificate on the first day of school."
Dianne, who gave no last name, said she supported the uniform policy.
"It is wonderful to see so many children wearing them on the first day even though they are not mandatory until Sept. 25," she said. "The children look great."
Not everyone has uniforms yet
The Bayonne Board of Education voted to adopt the uniform policy in late June, but initially named only one vendor, Uniformity, to supply the 6,500 children - which at the time did not have a store in Bayonne.
Lisa Cooper said she has had trouble getting a refund for pants that didn't fit, and since Uniformity did not have a store in Bayonne at the time, she also had to pay mailing costs.
Some confusion also existed concerning what is a uniform and what is not.
"My neighbor's child came to school with the correct type of shirt and color along with the correct type of pants," Cooper said. "He was told that it was unacceptable because there was no logo on his shirt."
Cooper said she does not oppose the policy so much as the way the program has been implemented.
"I am not 100 percent opposed to uniforms in Bayonne but I am not pleased with the way this has been handled," she said. "I feel it could have been done in a more organized manner for all parents involved and to have correct information given to each parent when this policy was going to be enforced. Instead there have been so many changes and misinformation given. And in the end, the students are the ones who suffer."