However, wecannot educate our children in schools where weapons, gang violence, and drugs,threaten their safety. Many local school districts have made uniforms animportant part of an overall program to improve school safety and discipline. Students resort to violence and theft simply to obtain designer clothes or namebrand shoes. This instills a fear among the students and teachers.
It is nosecret that violent behavior has become a problem in public schools. For thisreason more and more public schools are entertaining the idea of uniforms to getthe minds of their students off of fashion and onto their education. Manyparents and students support the uniform issue because they feel it makes allthe students equal in the eyes of their peers and teachers. However, manyparents feel that just like installing metal detectors, uniforms are asimplistic solution to a far greater problem. Some experts believe uniformspromise to cut down crime and reduce violence, but only if we take away thatstudents individuality and freedom of expression.
What does this promise?Uniforms have been used in an effort to try an reduce crime, and at the sametime, remove peer pressure amongst students to try to “fit in” so they canconcentrate on their school work. President William Clinton agrees with thissaying “If uniforms can help deter school violence, promote discipline, andfoster a better learning environment, then we should show strong support to theparents that try them”. (21) By mandating uniforms in public school, schoolofficials hope to see a reduction in crime and violence. According tostatistics, there are notable decreases in school violence and illegal offensesafter the enactment of a school uniform or standardized dress code policy.
(Lewis)Can uniforms really help in deterring violence and crime? Many parents andteachers say yes. Supporters of uniforms say social and economic classes wouldno longer be revealed by students clothing and the school system will havemore of a sense of community. (Nittel) Providing that a childs clothes doesmake a difference in school violence, then uniforms are exactly what ourchildren need. Some parents feel uniforms will put the students emphasis onschoolwork instead of dressing “cool”, and they will help to lower schoolviolence. Almost five years ago, the Long Beach School District made headlineswhen it became the first school district in the country to make uniformsmandatory for its elementary and middle school students.
According to Phoenixschool 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 uniformpolicy. (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 wasintroduced. Dress codes were initiated in private schools as a standard. Asviolence, competition between students, and distractions from the educationalsystem increased in public schools, administrators began to consider uniforms asa solution to the problem. In Baltimore, Maryland, school administrators found a44% drop in assault and battery charges, a 50% reduction in assault with adeadly weapon, a 41% cut in occurrences of fighting and a 74% drop in sexualoffenses.
They also found drug abuse to be down by 89% and vandalism had droppedby 8%. (Stacey) These results and others caused many school districts to consideruniforms for their own schools. Uniforms seem to give students a sense ofresponsibility. It says that clothing is not that important. With thisrealization the students began to forget about their clothes and refocused theirattention on education.
Consequently their test scores and attitudes improved. One teacher stated that ” I have never seen so many children change theiroverall attitude in the classroom in just a matter of a few weeks. ” Studiesshow school uniforms are more successful in elementary schools, where studentsare not so intent on their individuality. (Stover) And, experts recommend placingstudents in uniforms at a young age so they become accustomed to a program. Thisallows there to be no focus on material items and the childrens focus remainson education from the start.
Stover(1990) states that most supporters ofuniforms agree the program will not succeed unless school officials gain thesupport of a large majority of parents from the beginning. President BillClinton endorsed school uniforms in his 1996 State of the Union Address, andthis endorsement was followed by the distribution of a United States Departmentof Education Manual on School Uniforms to the nations 16,000 schooldistricts. This manual is used as a guide to help schools incorporate uniformpolicies and standardized dress codes into their extensive safe school programs. The decision whether to adopt a uniform policy is made by states, local schooldistricts, and schools. For uniforms to be a success, as with all other schoolprograms, the parents and teachers must be involved.
The following informationfrom Time Magazine, provides parents, teachers, and school leaders in whether toadopt a school uniform policy. 1. Get parents involved from the beginning. 2. Protect students religious expression. a.
A school uniform policy mustaccommodate students whose religious beliefs are burdened by a uniform policy. 3. Protect students other rights of expression. a. A uniform policy may notprohibit students from wearing or displaying expressive items, as long as theydo not disrupt the rights of others.
4. Determine whether to have a voluntary ormandatory uniform policy. 5. When a mandatory school uniform policy is adopted,determine whether to have an “opt-out” provision. a.
This means parents givetheir children the consent to “opt out” of the school uniform requirements. As a result of this manual, many local communities are deciding to adopt schooluniform policies. California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland,New York, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia have enacted school uniform regulationsMany large public school systems — including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, LosAngeles, Long Beach, Miami, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix,Seattle, and St. Louis — have schools with either voluntary or mandatoryuniform policies, mostly in elementary and middle schools. Many educators saythat uniforms are more cost effective than regular clothing (LaPoint).
Theaverage cost of uniforms is $65-75 per year for a set of three uniforms. Theycan be purchased at discount stores, department stores or uniform suppliers. Besides saving parents hundreds of dollars, school uniforms help to erase thelines between social classes. The uniforms help to create an equality betweenthe have and the have-nots. However, there are a number of parents, teachers,students, and agencies that strongly oppose the concept of standardized dresscodes and uniforms. Unnecessary disciplinary actions on students often becomecounterproductive, creating rejection and sometimes rebellion against schoolofficials.
For these and other reasons the American Civil Liberties Union havesided with parents and students in the fight against uniforms in public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) adamantly criticized Bill Clintonsschool uniform “experiment” because “it like virtually every other uniformpolicy in the country, applies only to elementary and middle school students,and not to teenagers (Siegel)”. Their argument is that adolescence is a timewhen the student wants to express his or her individuality and thereforeuniforms should not even be considered in the high school. According to LorenSiegel, Director of the Public Education Department, and the American CivilLiberties Union, ” implementing mandatory school uniforms is dangerous becauseit gives the community a false sense of security. It is like putting a smallbandage on an enormous wound, instead of attempting to find ways to truly dealwith the bleeding.
” By instilling a uniform policy, the ACLU feel that,students will become agitated by the uniforms and find other ways of expressingtheir individuality. The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that clothing is a mode ofself-expression and as such, protected under the First Amendment. Therefore, sayexperts, public schools must offer parents the right to decline to have theirchildren 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-outprovision (Siegel)”.
This means that every child has the right to a publicschool education, and that right must not be unconditional without compromise ofa school uniform policy of standardized dress code. Lack of group identificationis considered one of the significant reasons opponents of the school uniformsand standardized dress codes use. Lewis(1996) argued that “uniforms preventstudents from finding membership with other students with similar identities. “Critics complain that the uniforms will lessen childrens individualism andcreativity, which infringes on his or her rights. If given a choice, it is hardto imagine that most or even many teenagers will opt to wear the uniforms.
Withall the wonderful statistics about how uniforms are helping to improve violence, is there another side? Yes, the American Civil Liberties Union ofMassachusetts reported that due to the new release of uniforms in Laurence Highschool, attendance of students has dropped rapidly and 600 students have beengiven detention and 200 suspended. This did exactly the opposite of whatuniforms are “suppose” to accomplish. If policy makers are serious aboutfinding solutions to the problem of school violence, maybe they should ask thereal experts: the students themselves. The ACLU recently conducted a series offocus groups with high school students asking them what would help reduceviolence in school. Uniforms did not make the list. Their suggestion: 1.
Sinceschool violence mimics that of society at large, schools should seriouslyconfront and discuss issues of racism and cultural conflict. 2. School entrancesshould be secured. 3. More extracurricular activities and clubs should beestablished.
4. Open-mike assemblies should be held to give students theopportunity to express themselves. 5. Conflict resolution programs should betaught.
6. Programs to help students find part-time jobs should be established. 7. “Safe corridor” programs should be supported to protect the safety ofstudents as they go to and from school.
Political leaders seem to be adamantlypromoting uniforms. They are doing this while there are crumbling schoolbuildings, overcrowded classrooms and decreasing education funds. Attractive,modern and safe school buildings, small class sizes, schools with well stockedlibraries, new computers and an assortment of elective courses like music,drama, and art are the kinds of changes that would produce long lasting anddramatic improvements in student achievement. But by doing this that wouldrequire the government to get involved more than they want.
So they nextpossible source is uniforms. The ACLU argues that the government is trying tofind a “quick fix” to problems in the schools with the use of uniforms. Theysay that the solutions of the problems of school violence, low morale and lowself-esteem, inappropriate appearance and more, should be found with thestudents themselves (Siegel). Also, by adding increased police officers andteachers patrolling the hallways, the students would be better behaved.
Adolescence is a time when young people want to express their uniqueness andindividuality in many different ways, the most influential form of expressionfor them is fashion. “While younger children may be amenable to uniforms –might even like them — teenagers are different. ” (Siegel) Norman Isaacs, theprincipal of Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, California. , has voicedopposition to uniforms, saying that “students need to learn to make choicesand decisions based on internal values, rather than functioning with arbitraryrules that set the limits for them.
” Only then, he says, “can they learn tothink for themselves and develop self-discipline. ” Others also argue thatstudent dress serves as a “barometer” of what is going on with the studentand can signal problems such as drugs, gang membership, or sexual abuse. Uniforms would eliminate a warning system that lets teachers and administratorsidentify and rescue students who need help. Lastly, a uniform policy penalizeseveryone instead of focusing on the small percentage of kids causing theproblems. Most reports on the uniform issue indicate that the elementary andmiddle schools are showing great improvement, however, by not using them in thehigh schools, where crime is worst, do uniforms help at all? There are nostatistics on how uniforms are doing in high school. This is because no one isusing them in public school.
Townsend (1996, p?) explained that “the olderstudents get the less they will like the uniforms. ” This is what kept theprincipal of Long Beach High and the board of education from institutinguniforms in the high school. “We feared it would be an invitation to opendefiance and civil liberties. ” Its well-known that adolescence is a timewhen young people want to express individuality.
So the thought of wearinguniforms in high school is one to be avoided. Seigel(1990, p ?) states that”of course as several political cartoonist have pungently observed, teens arealready in uniform — baggy pants, T-shirts and baseball caps worn backward. “But these types of “uniforms” are clothes that the teens chosethemselves, and are not chosen for them. For these reason says Seigel, (1990,p?) school administrators and teachers know that teenagers will rebel againstuniform policies; that is why they have been reluctant to put them in the highschool level.
Required uniforms present a real dilemma. If the junior or seniorhigh school is a place that the students genuinely like–a place where they arerespected, where they are proud of their achievements and those of others, andwhere 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 toquestion adults, will almost certainly accept them. But students in secondaryschools without are likely to find ways to rebel against the enforcers ofrequired uniforms. Could uniforms work in the high school? According to KateDunnagan of Broughtan High this is not true. According to Dunnagan “studentbodies are developing and changing constantly.
Students wear what is flatteringand comfortable. It could be embarrassing to wear the same outfit as everyoneelse and look bad in it. The shape or design of a standard uniform may not beright for every individual. ” It appears the reasons for not implementinguniform policies in the high schools are simple. Teenagers will reject them.
Nolonger young enough to be persuaded, teenagers express themselves on how theyfeel, and to them uniforms feel wrong. Adolescence is when they discover whothey really are, and what styles they like. They can not discover this bylooking like each other day in and day out. So what does this then say to theelementary and jr.
high students? That once they reach high school they wonthave to wear uniforms, and they can go back to their old ways? How does thishelp? 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 learningenvironment that uniforms are suppose to provide. Conformity helps students tobehave 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 andfeels equal to his peers. Little information was found regarding the thoughtsand views of students themselves. However, last year students at Briton Middleschool in New Jersey polled 5 senior classes, asking them how the felt aboutuniforms. One student responded saying ” This is just another tactic to tryand remove more of our privileges. ” (New Jersey Times, p23) In addition toparents, school officials and governments authorities having input, so shouldthe students that will be wearing the uniforms.
Problems at home, at school, atchurch, and public places occur when attire worn by children become adistraction and a disruption in their environment. When this occurs othermethods must be devised to get the students mind off of material things andback to school work. These methods must begin with the parents. If parentsmonitor what their children wear then they can solve many problems that mayoccur.
Are uniforms a good idea for your district? According to Dr. Hilfer,strict dress codes are not for everybody ” Some schools thrive onpermissiveness and individuality, while others have to be more restrictive tocontain a restless student body”. Before making a uniform decision, hesuggests that schools carefully consider their unique populations; what kind ofmessage they want to send to their students; and whether or not the think theirchildren will go for it. Dr. Hilfer warns, “By instituting a uniform policy,schools are taking away kids individuality — schools need to decide if thatsacrifice is really worth making. It is apparent that no single program oraction alone, will solve the problems facing public schools today.
Schooluniforms and standardized dress codes must be a small part of a larger programto eliminate violence, competition, and distractions from education. Schoolsmust 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 andteachers. Finally, it will take the cooperation of parents, students, and schoolofficials to make this program work. Ultimately, the goal for all us is to putthe minds of students off of clothes and back on education. BibliographyPolacheck, Karin, (1995, September 28).
Uniforms Help Solve Many SchoolProblems. Long Beach Press-Telegram, (Online) 13 paragraphs. Available:http://www. lbusd. k12. ca.
us/uniform/uniformp. htm. Stacey, Julie, (1995, August22). Today’s Debate: Dressing For School. USA Today (Online) 15 paragraphs. Available: http://www.
lbusd. k12. ca. us/uniform. uniformg. htm.
Siegel, Loren. Pointof View: School Uniforms (Press release online). American Civil Liberties Unionweb page, http://www. aclu. org/issues/student/pres.
html U. S Department ofEducation, (1996). Manual on School Uniforms. (Government document). U. S.
Houseof Representatives. House Bill Number 2532 (Online). Available: http://www. dos.
state. fl. us/fgils/feds. html(No date). Associated Press, (1995, September 9). New Dress Code, Rule Shake UpMemphis School.
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