School uniforms too expensive? UC parents finding alternatives, different merchants

Union City’s school uniform policy, which had been in effect for elementary schools for two years, expanded this year to the two high schools – Union Hill and Emerson high. However, parents have continued to express concerns that the district only had one vendor, Scholastic Uniforms in Union City, and that the cost is too high for many of the city’s low-income families.

Now, some families have taken matters into their own hands. Some have gone to local children’s clothing stores to purchase pants and shirts at lower prices, then had the logos sewn on elsewhere.

Lowering costs by sewing on logo

Albert Cuebas Jr. has two school-age children in the Union City public school system, and a third who will start attending next year.

“I have two kids in school, and $165 per uniform is unacceptable,” said Cuebas last week. “I agree with the uniform policy, but I don’t agree with just sending us to one vendor. I agree [with the policy] because, for example, the girls are dressing too risqué, but they should allow us to go to Wal-Mart or K-Mart to at least buy the khaki pants. Everything in that store [Scholastic] is very expensive; hair Scrunchies are $3.99 in that store.”

One vendor that is offering the logos to be sewn on is C-Graphics on 32nd Street.

“I feel bad because these parents have like three to four kids, and to pay over $100 for a uniform is an abuse,” said Tony Castillo, owner of C-Graphics.

Castillo, who has been providing his services since last year, also claimed he was once threatened with legal action for using the logo.

“Last year, someone claiming to be from the Board of Education called to threaten me [with legal action] if I didn’t stop,” said Castillo. “This is a legitimate business, and the logo for the Board of Education is public art. There are no copyrights.”

Castillo said he did reach out to his attorney, but nothing ever happened, and no one called to threaten him again. Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger said no one from the Board of Education is authorized to do that, nor would they.

“We don’t do anything like that,” he said.

Grace period

Due to back orders from Scholastic, families were given a grace period of about six weeks into the school year to get the uniforms.

“The grace period was also for students, who [needed time] to get the financial means to get them, and at the same time allowed for the administrators of the schools to identify those students who were going through financial distress and help them get free uniforms,” said Sanger.

As of Oct. 15, about 95 percent of the high schools’ students had their uniforms, and about 99 percent of the elementary schools were taken care of too, Sanger said.

“It has been going beyond our expectations at this point,” said Sanger. “The administrators of both high schools and their staffs have done an outstanding job in implementing the policy, and it has really improved the environment of learning in the schools.”


Cuebas bought his uniforms at a different location, but before Oct. 15, he claimed his daughter was penalized for not having the exact uniform from Scholastic.

“They made my daughter stand up and check the back of her pants [which didn’t have the logo], and they gave her detention,” said Cuebas.

His son, who is in first grade, still had not had his uniform at all, but was not bothered by the school.

However, despite Cuebas’ claims that his daughter received detention for not having the proper uniform, Sanger claims that to his knowledge no child is being penalized for not wearing the exact uniform.

“We haven’t had to go to that level,” said Sanger. “We’re not looking to do anything that is penal; the intent of this is not to punish.”

Sanger also stated that the school administrators are checking uniforms, but for evaluation purposes, not punishment.

“What we’re also doing, myself and the Board of Education, is looking into possibilities to make it easier for parents to purchase next year,” said Sanger. “We, along with the help of school administrators, are going to evaluate this year the effectiveness of one vendor.”

Sanger also added that the district is very sympathetic to the financial situation of many families and have been working with them including supplying free uniforms.

“We are flexible and understanding to the economic situations of our students,” said Sanger.

Cuebas said he bought his daughter and his son over $70 worth of shirts with the logo of their school.

“I’m not buying the pants with the logo, though,” said Cuebas. “My main complaint is to let us use more affordable vendors.”


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group