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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Jedi costume protest referenced in Review article on next week's school board meeting

Here's the story that'll be running in tomorrow's Reidsville Review about the meeting this coming Monday night of the Rockingham County Board of Education. It's widely expected that the public comments portion of the night will be dominated by P.O.T.S.M.O.D.: People Opposed To Standard Mode Of Dress, the group that's fighting the mandatory uniforms at Reidsville Middle and Reidsville High schools this coming school year.

Here's part of the story...

Monday, POTSMOD plans to attend wearing costumes and black armbands to show its opposition to school uniforms. Former school board candidate Chris Knight said he will attend the meeting dressed as a Jedi knight to get the board's attention.

"It's a result of this past meeting where the public comments section was dominated by opposition to uniforms," Knight said. "But the board ignored our concerns."

Samantha Fettig, a parent involved with POTSMOD, said she felt the board scoffed at people's concerns. It seemed to some parents that board members considered the new principal problem a better reason to dismiss the policy than the public opposition.

"How can you pass something when you're in a room full of people who oppose it?" said Fettig.

Fettig argues the decision to implement mandatory uniforms in a Title I school is unfair. Sixty-nine percent of Reidsville Middle school students and 52 percent of Reidsville High students receive free or reduced lunches.

"It seems they're picking on the poorest people in the county," Fettig said. She said uniforms seem good on paper, but students change out of uniforms as soon as possible when arriving home. They need a second wardrobe to wear outside class. For parents who can barely afford a child's lunch, uniforms for one student or more are too expensive.

Edward Inman, another parent involved in POTSMOD, said even if the school board provided uniforms for free, some believe the issue has gone far beyond clothing. To upset parents, the board has been dishonest and has violated the First Amendment rights of the students.

Inman said he has never been fond of public speaking. But on behalf of his two children, who will be students at Reidsville High School in the fall, he has driven from Reidsville to Eden and spoken before the board.

"My children are going to know I tried everything I could to stop this," Inman said.

As was first announced on this blog early last month, I have every intention of coming to Monday night's meeting and addressing the board while garbed as a Jedi Knight from the Star Wars movies. I've been working on my remarks for a few weeks now, and the pitch is pretty much finished. One slight change in plans is that originally I said that I would not be wearing a lightsaber with my costume. My custom-made "metal tube" lightsaber will remain at home for sake of any safety concerns. But since the lightsaber is so much a part of the Jedi "look", I am building a lightweight cardboard tube replica that will hang from my belt.

It is very much my understanding that there will be quite a few others who will make a prominently visible show of disapproval of the uniforms at Monday night's meeting.

There may be some more items related to this story in the next day or so. I will post them as they become available.