Uniforms In Public School Quality education is critical to the future of Americas children. However, we cannot educate our children in schools where weapons, gang violence, and drugs, threaten their safety. Many local school districts have made uniforms an important part of an overall program to improve school safety and discipline. Students resort to violence and theft simply to obtain designer clothes or name brand shoes. This instills a fear among the students and teachers. It is no secret that violent behavior has become a problem in public schools. For this reason more and more public schools are entertaining the idea of uniforms to get the minds of their students off of fashion and onto their education. Many parents and students support the uniform issue because they feel it makes all the students equal in the eyes of their peers and teachers.
However, many parents feel that just like installing metal detectors, uniforms are a simplistic solution to a far greater problem. Some experts believe uniforms promise to cut down crime and reduce violence, but only if we take away that students individuality and freedom of expression. What does this promise? Uniforms have been used in an effort to try an reduce crime, and at the same time, remove peer pressure amongst students to try to “fit in” so they can concentrate on their school work. President William Clinton agrees with this saying “If uniforms can help deter school violence, promote discipline, and foster a better learning environment, then we should show strong support to the parents that try them”.(21) By mandating uniforms in public school, school officials hope to see a reduction in crime and violence. According to statistics, there are notable decreases in school violence and illegal offenses after the enactment of a school uniform or standardized dress code policy.(Lewis) Can uniforms really help in deterring violence and crime? Many parents and teachers say yes. Supporters of uniforms say social and economic classes would no longer be revealed by students clothing and the school system will have more of a sense of community.(Nittel) Providing that a childs clothes does make a difference in school violence, then uniforms are exactly what our children need. Some parents feel uniforms will put the students emphasis on schoolwork instead of dressing “cool”, and they will help to lower school violence. Almost five years ago, the Long Beach School District made headlines when it became the first school district in the country to make uniforms mandatory for its elementary and middle school students.
According to Phoenix school officials in Long Beach, California, attendance and test scores improved, incidents of students fighting decreased by 50%, student crimes decreased by 36% and student suspensions decreased by 32% after they enacted a uniform policy.(Will) Also other there were other steps to improve student behavior. Increasing the number of teachers patrolling the hallways during class changes, were also taken by the district around the same time the uniform policy was introduced. Dress codes were initiated in private schools as a standard. As violence, competition between students, and distractions from the educational system increased in public schools, administrators began to consider uniforms as a solution to the problem. In Baltimore, Maryland, school administrators found a 44% drop in assault and battery charges, a 50% reduction in assault with a deadly weapon, a 41% cut in occurrences of fighting and a 74% drop in sexual offenses. They also found drug abuse to be down by 89% and vandalism had dropped by 8%.(Stacey) These results and others caused many school districts to consider uniforms for their own schools.
Uniforms seem to give students a sense of responsibility. It says that clothing is not that important. With this realization the students began to forget about their clothes and refocused their attention on education. Consequently their test scores and attitudes improved. One teacher stated that ” I have never seen so many children change their overall attitude in the classroom in just a matter of a few weeks.” Studies show school uniforms are more successful in elementary schools, where students are not so intent on their individuality.(Stover) And, experts recommend placing students in uniforms at a young age so they become accustomed to a program. This allows there to be no focus on material items and the childrens focus remains on education from the start.
Stover(1990) states that most supporters of uniforms agree the program will not succeed unless school officials gain the support of a large majority of parents from the beginning. President Bill Clinton endorsed school uniforms in his 1996 State of the Union Address, and this endorsement was followed by the distribution of a United States Department of Education Manual on School Uniforms to the nations 16,000 school districts. This manual is used as a guide to help schools incorporate uniform policies and standardized dress codes into their extensive safe school programs. The decision whether to adopt a uniform policy is made by states, local school districts, and schools. For uniforms to be a success, as with all other school programs, the parents and teachers must be involved. The following information from Time Magazine, provides parents, teachers, and school leaders in whether to adopt a school uniform policy.
1. Get parents involved from the beginning. 2. Protect students religious expression. a.
A school uniform policy must accommodate students whose religious beliefs are burdened by a uniform policy. 3. Protect students other rights of expression. a. A uniform policy may not prohibit students from wearing or displaying expressive items, as long as they do not disrupt the rights of others.
4. Determine whether to have a voluntary or mandatory uniform policy. 5. When a mandatory school uniform policy is adopted, determine whether to have an “opt-out” provision. a.
This means parents give their children the consent to “opt out” of the school uniform requirements. As a result of this manual, many local communities are deciding to adopt school uniform policies. California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia have enacted school uniform regulations Many large public school systems — including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Miami, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle, and St. Louis — have schools with either voluntary or mandatory uniform policies, mostly in elementary and middle schools. Many educators say that uniforms are more cost effective than regular clothing (LaPoint).
The average cost of uniforms is $65-75 per year for a set of three uniforms. They can be purchased at discount stores, department stores or uniform suppliers. Besides saving parents hundreds of dollars, school uniforms help to erase the lines between social classes. The uniforms help to create an equality between the have and the have-nots. However, there are a number of parents, teachers, students, and agencies that strongly oppose the concept of standardized dress codes and uniforms. Unnecessary disciplinary actions on students often become counterproductive, creating rejection and sometimes rebellion against school officials.
For these and other reasons the American Civil Liberties Union have sided with parents and students in the fight against uniforms in public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) adamantly criticized Bill Clintons school uniform “experiment” because “it like virtually every other uniform policy in the country, applies only to elementary and middle school students, and not to teenagers (Siegel)”. Their argument is that adolescence is a time when the student wants to express his or her individuality and therefore uniforms should not even be considered in the high school. According to Loren Siegel, Director of the Public Education Department, and the American Civil Liberties Union, ” implementing mandatory school uniforms is dangerous because it gives the community a false sense of security. It is like putting a small bandage on an enormous wound, instead of attempting to find ways to truly deal with the bleeding.” By instilling a uniform policy, the ACLU feel that, students will become agitated by the uniforms and find other ways of expressing their individuality.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that clothing is a mode of self-expression and as such, protected under the First Amendment. Therefore, say experts, public schools must offer parents the right to decline to have their children wear uniforms. Those students that do not wear them cannot be punished. “For a public school uniform policy to be legal, it has to have an opt-out provision (Siegel)”. This means that every child has the right to a public school education, and that right must not be unconditional without compromise of a school uniform policy of standardized dress code.
Lack of group identification is considered one of the significant reasons opponents of the school uniforms and standardized dress codes use. Lewis(1996) argued that “uniforms prevent students from finding membership with other students with similar identities.” Critics complain that the uniforms will lessen childrens individualism and creativity, which infringes on his or her rights. If given a choice, it is hard to imagine that most or even many teenagers will opt to wear the uniforms. With all the wonderful statistics about how uniforms are helping to improve violence , is there another side? Yes, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts reported that due to the new release of uniforms in Laurence High school, attendanc …