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Uniforms In Public School

.. e of students has dropped rapidly and 600 students have been given detention and 200 suspended. This did exactly the opposite of what uniforms are “suppose” to accomplish. If policy makers are serious about finding solutions to the problem of school violence, maybe they should ask the real experts: the students themselves. The ACLU recently conducted a series of focus groups with high school students asking them what would help reduce violence in school.

Uniforms did not make the list. Their suggestion: 1. Since school violence mimics that of society at large, schools should seriously confront and discuss issues of racism and cultural conflict. 2. School entrances should be secured.

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3. More extracurricular activities and clubs should be established. 4. Open-mike assemblies should be held to give students the opportunity to express themselves. 5. Conflict resolution programs should be taught. 6. Programs to help students find part-time jobs should be established.

7. “Safe corridor” programs should be supported to protect the safety of students as they go to and from school. Political leaders seem to be adamantly promoting uniforms. They are doing this while there are crumbling school buildings, overcrowded classrooms and decreasing education funds. Attractive, modern and safe school buildings, small class sizes, schools with well stocked libraries, new computers and an assortment of elective courses like music, drama, and art are the kinds of changes that would produce long lasting and dramatic improvements in student achievement. But by doing this that would require the government to get involved more than they want.

So they next possible source is uniforms. The ACLU argues that the government is trying to find a “quick fix” to problems in the schools with the use of uniforms. They say that the solutions of the problems of school violence, low morale and low self-esteem, inappropriate appearance and more, should be found with the students themselves (Siegel). Also, by adding increased police officers and teachers patrolling the hallways, the students would be better behaved. Adolescence is a time when young people want to express their uniqueness and individuality in many different ways, the most influential form of expression for them is fashion.

“While younger children may be amenable to uniforms — might even like them — teenagers are different.” (Siegel) Norman Isaacs, the principal of Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, California., has voiced opposition to uniforms, saying that “students need to learn to make choices and decisions based on internal values, rather than functioning with arbitrary rules that set the limits for them.” Only then, he says, “can they learn to think for themselves and develop self-discipline.” Others also argue that student dress serves as a “barometer” of what is going on with the student and can signal problems such as drugs, gang membership, or sexual abuse. Uniforms would eliminate a warning system that lets teachers and administrators identify and rescue students who need help. Lastly, a uniform policy penalizes everyone instead of focusing on the small percentage of kids causing the problems. Most reports on the uniform issue indicate that the elementary and middle schools are showing great improvement, however, by not using them in the high schools, where crime is worst, do uniforms help at all? There are no statistics on how uniforms are doing in high school. This is because no one is using them in public school.

Townsend (1996, p?) explained that “the older students get the less they will like the uniforms.” This is what kept the principal of Long Beach High and the board of education from instituting uniforms in the high school. “We feared it would be an invitation to open defiance and civil liberties.” Its well-known that adolescence is a time when young people want to express individuality. So the thought of wearing uniforms in high school is one to be avoided. Seigel(1990, p ?) states that”of course as several political cartoonist have pungently observed, teens are already in uniform — baggy pants, T-shirts and baseball caps worn backward.” But these types of “uniforms” are clothes that the teens chose themselves, and are not chosen for them. For these reason says Seigel, (1990, p?) school administrators and teachers know that teenagers will rebel against uniform policies; that is why they have been reluctant to put them in the high school level.

Required uniforms present a real dilemma. If the junior or senior high school is a place that the students genuinely like–a place where they are respected, where they are proud of their achievements and those of others, and where they are consulted about the value of uniforms, they may well accept them. (Howe II) In the earlier years, little children, who have not yet learned to question adults, will almost certainly accept them. But students in secondary schools without are likely to find ways to rebel against the enforcers of required uniforms. Could uniforms work in the high school? According to Kate Dunnagan of Broughtan High this is not true.

According to Dunnagan “student bodies are developing and changing constantly. Students wear what is flattering and comfortable. It could be embarrassing to wear the same outfit as everyone else and look bad in it. The shape or design of a standard uniform may not be right for every individual.” It appears the reasons for not implementing uniform policies in the high schools are simple. Teenagers will reject them. No longer young enough to be persuaded, teenagers express themselves on how they feel, and to them uniforms feel wrong.

Adolescence is when they discover who they really are, and what styles they like. They can not discover this by looking like each other day in and day out. So what does this then say to the elementary and jr. high students? That once they reach high school they wont have to wear uniforms, and they can go back to their old ways? How does this help? It doesnt. With this attitude crime and violence will only get worse. High school will become a place of freedom of uniforms, instead of the learning environment that uniforms are suppose to provide. Conformity helps students to behave better, learn, and achieve more in and out of the classroom (Forbes, Malcolm, p26).

The self esteem of a child is increased when he or she learns and feels equal to his peers. Little information was found regarding the thoughts and views of students themselves. However, last year students at Briton Middle school in New Jersey polled 5 senior classes, asking them how the felt about uniforms. One student responded saying ” This is just another tactic to try and remove more of our privileges.” (New Jersey Times, p23) In addition to parents, school officials and governments authorities having input, so should the students that will be wearing the uniforms. Problems at home, at school, at church, and public places occur when attire worn by children become a distraction and a disruption in their environment. When this occurs other methods must be devised to get the students mind off of material things and back to school work. These methods must begin with the parents.

If parents monitor what their children wear then they can solve many problems that may occur. Are uniforms a good idea for your district? According to Dr. Hilfer, strict dress codes are not for everybody ” Some schools thrive on permissiveness and individuality, while others have to be more restrictive to contain a restless student body”. Before making a uniform decision, he suggests that schools carefully consider their unique populations; what kind of message they want to send to their students; and whether or not the think their children will go for it. Dr.

Hilfer warns, “By instituting a uniform policy, schools are taking away kids individuality — schools need to decide if that sacrifice is really worth making. It is apparent that no single program or action alone, will solve the problems facing public schools today. School uniforms and standardized dress codes must be a small part of a larger program to eliminate violence, competition, and distractions from education. Schools must incorporate dress codes along with other programs to help remove violence, and at the same time build self-esteem and school pride among the students and teachers. Finally, it will take the cooperation of parents, students, and school officials to make this program work.

Ultimately, the goal for all us is to put the minds of students off of clothes and back on education. Bibliography Polacheck, Karin, (1995, September 28). Uniforms Help Solve Many School Problems. Long Beach Press-Telegram, (Online) 13 paragraphs. Available: Stacey, Julie, (1995, August 22). Today’s Debate: Dressing For School. USA Today (Online) 15 paragraphs. Available: Siegel, Loren.

Point of View: School Uniforms (Press release online). American Civil Liberties Union web page, U.S Department of Education, (1996). Manual on School Uniforms. (Government document). U.S.

House of Representatives. House Bill Number 2532 (Online). Available: (No date). Associated Press, (1995, September 9). New Dress Code, Rule Shake Up Memphis School. The Chattanooga Times (Newspaper article), 18 paragraphs. e/uniform3.htm http://www.kidpub/School Uniforms-Chelle.html ml.


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