|Schools should be able to impose dress codes or uniforms on students.
In 2007, cases involving an anti-Bush T-shirt in Vermont, an anti-gay T-shirt in San Diego and Tigger socks in Napa, California, made their way through the courts, causing many to wonder whether this debate will ever be resolved.
Pro: Help prevent gangs from forming on campus, Encourage discipline, Help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes, Help identify intruders in the school, Diminish economic and social barriers between students, Increase a sense of belonging and school pride, Improve attendance
Con: Violate a student's right to freedom of expression Are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence, Make students a target for bullies from other schools, Are a financial burden for poor families, Are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education, Are difficult to enforce in public schools
In the 1980s, public schools were often compared unfavorably to Catholic schools. Noting the perceived benefit that uniforms conferred upon Catholic schools, some public schools decided to adopt a school uniform policy. President Clinton provided momentum to the school uniform movement when he said in his 1996 State of the Union speech, "If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms."
Pro: School administrators face a complicated task setting a dress code: with inappropriate coverage (for example, strapless, halter, and midriff tops and too-short skirts and shorts) and inappropriate insignia (for example, slogans for alcohol and cigarettes and clothing with vulgar language or representing otherwise objectionable connections, such as gang membership), it may be easier to have a uniform than to detail and enforce independently chosen clothing. , Dress code aside, the interest in fashion and fad combined with peer pressure can lead to pressure to spend money that some families can ill afford: school uniforms refocus this issue. , Wearing of school uniforms prevents the formation of dress-identified cliques , The wearing of school uniforms emphasizes membership and group identity, fostering a community spirit. , Crimes involving stealing items of apparel are unlikely to be perpetrated if everyone’s apparel is identical. , Because students can be easily identified, intruders in the school setting can be more readily identified and students on field trips are more easily accounted for. , The wearing of school uniforms helps students to realize that a person’s unique gifts and personality traits go deeper than their apparel and aren’t diminished by uniform dress.
Con: School administrators face a complicated task setting a dress code: with inappropriate coverage (for example, strapless, halter, and midriff tops and too-short skirts and shorts) and inappropriate insignia (for example, slogans for alcohol and cigarettes and clothing with vulgar language or representing otherwise objectionable connections, such as gang membership), it may be easier to have a uniform than to detail and enforce independently chosen clothing. , Dress code aside, the interest in fashion and fad combined with peer pressure can lead to pressure to spend money that some families can ill afford: school uniforms refocus this issue. , Wearing of school uniforms prevents the formation of dress-identified cliques , The wearing of school uniforms emphasizes membership and group identity, fostering a community spirit. , Crimes involving stealing items of apparel are unlikely to be perpetrated if everyone’s apparel is identical. , Because students can be easily identified, intruders in the school setting can be more readily identified and students on field trips are more easily accounted for. , The wearing of school uniforms helps students to realize that a person’s unique gifts and personality traits go deeper than their apparel and aren’t diminished by uniform dress.
Pros: Eliminates opportunities for the ridicule of less popular or less fortunate students based on attire. Decreases theft and violence - even life-threatening situations- among students over designer clothing or expensive sneakers. Helping prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school. Instilling students with discipline. Helping parents and students resist peer pressure. Helping students concentrate on their school work. Helping school officials recognize intruders who come to school.
Cons: Self Expression
Many educators and sociology experts believe that requiring children to wear standardized uniforms stifles their self-expression. Self-expression is an important part of child development and some experts believe that curbing it with uniforms can be detrimental to a child. Experts also believe that students who are forced to wear uniforms will only find other, less appropriate ways to express themselves, possibly through inappropriate use of makeup and jewelry.
Some experts believe that public education attempts to strip children of their individuality. They believe that public education does not meet the needs of children who do not fall in the norm, and that uniforms attempt to force every student into one mold. They see standard dress as another way for public educators to remove student individuality where they should be embracing and celebrating diversity. Some experts believe it is not in the best interest of the child to try to control socialization which is a part of human nature. They believe that such use of school uniforms does not prepare children from the real world in which they will continue to be judged by appearances.
There are just as many experts who believe that the cost of school uniforms is a negative factor as those who see it as a positive factor. Some experts believe that it increases the amount of clothing parents will have to buy for their children because the children will still want and need clothing for the hours they are not in school. Uniforms can be more expensive for a family who buys from second-hand stores or who relies on hand-me-down clothing from friends and family. Some experts believe cost is a negative aspect of school uniforms because there is no use for them outside of school.
Many experts argue that different types of clothing feel comfortable to different people. Some children are more comfortable in a specific material or style of clothing. Uniforms reduce one’s ability to choose clothing that fits individual comfort needs. Experts believe that children need to feel comfortable in order to maximize learning, and that uniforms can therefore deter academic success.
Pros are not Pros
Many educators and experts believe that, although in theory uniforms should improve academic, behavioral, and social outcomes, in reality they do not. These experts argue that the studies of schools who initiate uniforms do not report improvement in any of these areas; therefore, if the desired outcomes are not reached, there is no valid reason to standardize student dress
Most schools have regulations on how students dress. The intent is to keep students safe and focused on academics. Teachers have enough on their plate to motivate learning without having to monitor which slogan is affecting who today.
Baggy pants and bandanas could be interpreted as gang dress. Dressing as a gang member intimidates other students and spreads fear instead of focusing on academics. Pants with large pockets are often restricted because a weapon or drugs could be carried in them. Certain colors are often banned if gang colors.
Coats and bookbags are often only permitted in lockers. Again, guns and drugs could be in coat pockets and bookbags.
Dressing seductively is a great distraction to the opposite sex. It only makes sense to put restrictions on what can be worn to school. Sexual thoughts are already frequent in middle school and high school. Most students do not need visual aids. The imagination is active enough. Schools have banned MySpace.com during school hours because of the suggestive content and predators lurking. MySpace has tried to make the site safer but students still make themselves vulnerable by being on MySpace
Clothing with reference to cigarettes or alcohol are usually not allowed. Television restricts commercials on these subjects so it doesn't make sense to allow students advertise in school. T-shirts from Hooters are usually not permitted because of the reference made to waitresses. But a new craze is emerging and it is not making administration and law enforcement very happy. The t-shirts say "Don't Snitch."
This latest trend tells students at school to not cooperate with teachers, principals and police. So, you witness vicious harassment--don't snitch. You witness a gun in a locker--don't snitch. You see drugs in the lunchroom--don't snitch. You overhear someone talking about a bomb--don't snitch.
This new craze in t-shirts leads already confused middle school and high school students to believe that they must stand behind their friends at all costs. Doesn't really matter if it is morally wrong. You stand by your friends even if they could blow up the school, shoot your friends, or die of a drug overdose. The worst thing you can be is a snitch and cooperate with the police. Police rely on citizens to assist them in investigations. No leads, no arrests, less safety.
Even though these t-shirts are no longer being produced, other companies have copied the slogan and sell on the black market as knock offs. But, more and more schools are saying "no" to these slogan t-shirts.
More and more public schools are switching to uniforms. This custom used to be reserved for private and Catholic schools but public schools are finding some positive results. When students wear uniforms to school, no one can tell who has more money. The latest expensive jeans can't be shown off along with the designer polo.
The results have been better attendance because students always have something acceptable to wear. Studies uncovered the fact that some students were missing school because they didn't have "cool" clothes to wear or the one pair of jeans that was "cool" was too wet to wear to school. And, since students are not distracted by who is wearing what, students focus better on academics and their own business.
How we dress does matter. Even entrepreneurs that work out of their home feel their workday is more productive when dressed appropriately rather than working in pajamas.
School officials in Wilson County, Tenn., are nearing a settlement in a lawsuit brought by two students who were punished for wearing shirts criticizing the school dress code.
The school board met with its attorney Michael Jennings May 8 to discuss a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee on behalf of Cory and Kista Vinson. The lawsuit claims the two students' First Amendment rights were violated when they were suspended for wearing protest logos to school in October 1999.
Cory, a Mt. Juliet High School student received a one-day suspension for wearing an ironed-on logo message on his shirt that read "I miss my real clothes." The next day, his sister Kista was suspended from Mt. Juliet Junior High School for wearing a logo that said, "The board voted and all I got was this lousy uniform."
The dress code allowed students to wear only logos that included school names and mascots, said Director of Schools James Duncan.
U.S. District Judge John Nixon issued a temporary injunction last September prohibiting the school system from disciplining students who wore protest logos to school.
Since the fall, the county has unofficially permitted students to wear protest logos, Duncan said.
Under the settlement, the school board will officially modify its dress code to allow students to wear protest logos no larger than 4-by-3 inches on their shirts. In addition, Cory and Kista's disciplinary records will be expunged and the school system will pay part of their legal fees.
The two sides, however, are still negotiating the full terms of the agreement, said attorney Harris Gilbert, who is representing the students along with attorney Stephen Zralek.
It isn't clear exactly what types of protest emblems will be permitted under the modified dress code, said Duncan and school board member Ron Britt, who is against allowing students to wear logos of any type.
Duncan said the logos could possibly protest matters other than the dress code as long as the language is not "indecent, profane or [disruptive of] the educational process." No students have worn such logos thus far, he said.
"We're not making a big deal out of it unless it's derogatory or depicts illegal activities," Duncan said. "I feel [the dress code modification] addresses the parents' concerns and I hope we can move on to other things."
Britt opposes logos because they are "a distraction to the learning environment," he said. "Protest logos and brand name logos don't serve a lot of purpose," Britt said. "I don't believe a judge or somebody separate from the learning environment can make a decision about what adds or takes away from an educational environment."
School officials plan to provide a bulletin board where students can voice their concerns about the dress code and other issues, Britt said. "It's OK for good people to disagree."
In a May 8 e-mail message to freedomforum.org, Theresa Harmon, Cory and Kista's mother, wrote, "I wish they (school board members) had shown this willingness for compromise over a year ago instead of dragging this out like they have."
Harmon has been teaching her children at home since they were suspended. In a May 8 article in The (Nashville) Tennessean, she said her children would probably return to county schools this fall.
Harmon has also expressed her sentiments on the Wilson County Parents Coalition Web site, created in 1999. In an editorial posted on the site, she said she opposes the dress code policy because it infringes on her parental rights and the constitutional rights of her children. The school policy is a "stepping stone for local, state and federal agencies to mandate away yet more rights and God-given responsibilities," she wrote.
An unnamed Mt. Juliet High School student also voiced opposition to the dress code in an April 16 message posted on the site.
"The joys of wearing uniforms are wonderful, aren't they?" the student wrote. "We sit while the teacher looks at each one of us, checking our manner of dressing. Those not compliant are written up and sent to administrators to be disciplined properly. We've lost at least ten to 15 minutes of class time when the teacher finally gets back to the job she went to college for: teaching."