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Dress Code in Schools

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Dress Codes in Schools

Com 220- Research Writing

Some people believe that our schools should require their students to adapt to a dress code to improve student behavior, enhance students’ self-confidence and reduce differences among socioeconomic levels. Others may say that policies enforcing dress codes or requiring school uniforms violate students’ First Amendment rights and suppress individuality. The argument over school dress codes and school-uniform policies continue to rage in the meeting rooms, administrative officers, and classrooms of public schools throughout the country. School officials place dress code policies so there will be orderly dressing amongst the students’. Dress codes are important but they are troublesome at the same time. There is no one to police the dress code of the students when they arrive at school. And at the same time, the same dress code placed among the students should be the same as the educators.

Schools should be a learning institution full of knowledge for young eager minds and not a meeting place for the latest fashion contest. Recent studies conducted in schools have shown that a fixed dress code does promote good behavior and helps students achieve higher test scores. However, parents have expressed concerns because their child or children are not being allowed to express who he or she truly is.

Another issue that has many people worried throughout the United States is the rising cost of these uniforms to stay in compliance with the schools dress codes. Many cities in which the school itself provides two to three sets of uniforms for low income families. The only problem with this is that it is cutting into their already low budgets and takes away from money they can use for teachers and school repairs.

For instance this figure school uniforms have risen in price from 2008 to 2012 and will more than likely continue to increase.

In today’s society children and even many adults use clothing to express themselves and how they feel, but when is it too much? Researchers and school officials believe that students are too preoccupied with the way they look that they stop focusing on school and grades. This is why it is now mandatory for dress codes. For one, it promotes uniformity, it also helps administration keep a stricter hold on students and ensure they follow the rules. As a result you achieve a top performing school with great deal of discipline.

Although experts have gathered information for this study by using extensive research there are still those who are against this idea as seen in the figure below.

Some parents are against dress codes because they limit the individuality of the child. Researchers recently proved that students acquiring dress codes can concentrate more on their studies and sports. Students’ do not have to worry about peer pressure regarding what they should wear to school every day or worrying about how he or she is going to be judge because of he or she is wearing clothes from a thrift store rather than wearing clothes bought at the mall. School uniforms greatly benefit both the students’ and faculty by creating an environment in which students can get the most out of their educations. Many students are so conscious about what to wear that they have to plan ahead regarding what they should wear.

During the mid-1900s’ there was certain attire that some schools prohibited the male and female student body to wear. Some of which included slacks and short skirts for the girls and heavy coats along with motorcycle boots for the boys. No matter what the gender all gang related colors, trench coats, and clothing was strictly prohibited because of close affiliation. These rules were especially enforced in areas where gang activity was the greatest. This was all done in an effort to keep the gangs away since they are known to intimidate students in a variety of ways.

Dress codes are supposed to reduce violence and bullying within schools. One story that made news was of a riot due to the fact a couple of students from one school were wearing a certain color that another school had adopted. The result of the riot ended with one young man killed and three injured.

As we all know private schools have always required school uniforms. However, it did not reach public schools until 1987 when the Cherry Hill Elementary became the first public school to adopt the use of uniforms. This is when the chain reaction began that then led the Long Beach, California Unified School District (LBUSD) to adopt a district wide dress code seven years later, but it was not until the State Of The Union in 1996 in which President Clinton endorsed the idea of public-school uniforms that it gained official sanction. Following the new direction the United States Department of Education sent A Manual of School Uniforms to every school district in the United States, which then began to develop their own policies, based-off the manual. It is not clear how many districts and schools now require a dress code or uniform policy, but the development toward prescribing what students wear to class continues to expand, along with the debate.

Public schools today are opening their eyes to the real-world and see what their students are wearing and what the clothes are about. Many schools around the United States have banned any clothing with insensitive symbols or sayings due to the fact it may offend someone or promote illegal substances.

Maintaining stylish apparel can be expensive for some families. With current economy situations being as it there are many families that simply do not have the extra income to dress children in expensive designer clothes just to have the best impression in school. As a result they see that dress codes may be a solution to their problems since it can keep costs down for uniforms. Dress codes are enforced since there is more and more clothing and styles that are considered inappropriate for school (e.g. wallet chain for boys and stiletto heels for girls). It also reduces crime in schools as there would be no expensive clothing or items for other less fortunate student to be tempted to steal. Good taste and common sense should dictate parental and student choice of school clothes. However, schools have determined what appropriate attire is and what is not, even if it conforms to current fashion.

In this essay I had many compelling reason why I believe that schools (whether it being public or private) should adopt a uniform policies for their students’. Uniform policies can help families save money on other things rather than expensive designer clothing and secure the parents that their child is in a safe environment.

Since the majority of the schools in the United States have protocol on how their students must dress, the intent is to keep students’ unharmed and to make sure the students is focused on his or her academics. Loose-fitting pants and bandanas (certain colors) can be construed as gang attire and may intimidate other students and increases fear instead of focusing on academics. Cargo pants or pants with large pockets are often limited since weapons or drugs can be carried in them. Coats and book bags are only permitted in the locker or if the book bags are mesh or clear. Since weapons or drugs can be smuggled inside a book bag. Dressing seductively is a great deal of disturbance to any gender. It is only common sense to put restrictions on what can and cannot be worn at school. Sexual thought are already common in junior high and high schools. Most students do not need a visual aid, the imagination is active enough. Clothing promoting cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol or drugs is not allowed. (i.e. T-shirts from Hooters are not acceptable because of the character reference formed against waitresses). A new “Don’t Snitch” T-shirt craze is emerging especially in junior high, which are not in favor of administration and law enforcement. This latest craze voices students at school not to corporate with teachers or policies. (e.g. if you witness drugs in a locker --- “Don’t Snitch”.)

Common misunderstanding is between Dress codes and uniform policies. Dress codes declare what should not be worn. Many students go against the dress code entirely due to the fact that only certain things are prohibited as some more than others. In some cases the distinction can be important especially within legal battles. When dress codes are reviewed courts will uphold it to the fullest extent when it has to with gangs or any affiliation to them and nobody will object, however when you speak of simply enforcing dress code many believe it to be wrong and that it is a violation of the students and their rights. There are many details that are often overlooked when debating dress codes and usually do not surface until that key point is hit. Dress code should be enforced equally throughout the entire system. Instead of changing dress code policies to try and ensure all students abide by them school officials should just better enforce those in place now.

Problems schools tackle with implementing dress codes, is that youth fashions transform frequently and radically. For years many school districts have been trying to keep up with the changing fashion, especially with the female fashions since females always enjoy looking their best and have more reveling opportunities. Administrators and school officials have difficulties keeping up with the latest trend thus, resorted to adopting a general dress code for all schools.

Principal of Milford High School in Milford, Massachusetts John Brucato, explained to CNN that his school’s dress code, which seems to capture the regulations in many dress codes. “[We ask our students to dress and groom themselves as individuals with a sense of responsibility and self-respect. So it is not a matter of what you must wear; it is more of a matter of what we do not believe is appropriate. Specifically, if it becomes disruptive, offensive, threatening, or provocative to others, is vulgar, displays tobacco or alcohol advertising, profanity, racial slurs, has disruptive images of gang-related symbols]” (Brucato, 2001).

Because school uniforms policies are easier to maintain than dress codes since school uniform policies is a guideline on what the school wants to see or not see; not telling students what to wear. Acceptance of uniforms has to do with style. The style of today’s uniforms is more relaxed to suit today’s times. The traditional blazer, white blouse and plaid skirts for girls and dark slacks, white shirts, school tie for boys are still seen but more in private schools. Whereas in public schools the uniforms may consist of a more modern style such as white t-shirts with blue jeans or khaki pants. In 1996 President Clinton during his State Of The Union speech called for public-school uniforms. Shortly after this many schools answered the call and began to use the dress code system. In order to meet the demand retailers soon got a piece of the action. Although uniform prices are different from retailer to retailer statistics say that in 1999 American families were spending close to $1.5 billion on uniforms alone. As this became big business many retailers began to carry uniforms as part of their usual inventory and make a huge profit during the back-to-school season.

The dispute over dress code rages on and will for some time, but supporters of both sides can agree and say dress code is not the only contributing factor in the schools problems and it certainly will not solve them all. There are many ways in which school standards can be improved and dress code should only be a step and not the solution. When used as such it can have a negative effect instead of the intended positive one.

The majority of public schools have now switched to using dress codes as they find it has a positive effect on students and their grades. The use of uniforms originated as something only for private and Catholic schools as it made them look uniform and presentable. As public schools use this it helps student moral because no one can tell who has more money than the other or where the clothes were purchased. It reduces distractions by the students no longer having to worry about who looks better than the other, and it also helps attendance and being on time because you no longer have to wait and try to pick out an outfit for school.

Does how we dress does matter? If we dressed inappropriately during our workday we would be less productive. Even people that work from home report that they work and think better when properly dressed instead of in their pajamas. The same goes for children within schools, when they dress inappropriately they seem to lose focus on studies. If dress codes were made effective and enforced they would again focus on school instead of worrying who is wearing the latest fashion or wearing the most expensive clothes or jewelry.


BlueSuitMom. (2000, August). Public Dress Codes Growing More Popular. Retrieved February 23, 2012. From

CNN- Principal John Brucato: Why our school uses a dress code. (2001, August 28). Retrieved February 23, 2012. From

U.S. Congressman Kenny Marchant. Retrieved on February 23, 2012. From

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