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The Effects of Public School Uniform Policies

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Taresha
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The Effects of Public School Uniform Policies
Taresha Y. Hemphill
ECPI University


Public school uniform Policies are not a solution to all school problems. Some problems will still exist. However, the improvements that the mandatory uniform policies have made across the nation are indisputable. Public school uniform policies will continue to reduce school violence and gang activity and overall help create a productive and safer learning environment. It will take more work to correct the school systems, but they will only get worse if something is not done about them. Even though school uniforms are a small step to improving the violence in public schools in the United States, it is better to make that small step than do nothing at all.

There are vast opinions over what students should wear to school. Some see a student’s style of dress as an expression of who they are and dress code policies as a First Amendment Rights issue. Others see a student’s style of dress as a safety issue. School Dress Codes and Uniform policies have been challenged in PTA meetings, the classroom and in the court room. The main reason for having these policies is to create a safer, more productive learning environment for our children; not to strip away their freedom. We should allow students to express themselves and their individuality. However, this does not mean that their expression should be so grand that it causes destruction, disorder or interferes with class instruction. According to King, there is a definite correlation between clothing style and school violence. There is an image or stigma attached to a certain style and the most distinguished is gang style clothing. For example, a popular style of dress with young boys is saggy pants and oversized shirts. This style is closely associated with inner city gang members who wear the loose fitting clothes in order to hide drugs and weapons. This style of dress is not only linked gang activity and violence, but also bullying. After the Columbine shootings, a certain stigma was attached to students wearing all black clothing, black trench coats, black eye shadow and black lipstick. According to Kerry White, Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center stated that in wake of school shootings communities and schools are much more willing to embrace uniforms as well as a number of other strategies to enhance student strategies. Another issue that causes violence among school children is fashion envy. Children may resent other children’s clothing because their parents lack the financial resources to purchase the same styles. In 1985, I attended Lumbard Middle school in Baltimore MD and there had been violent acts over theft of expensive clothing and on one occasion a boy had gotten murdered for his designer jacket. Children may envy other children’s clothing and may not have the financial resources to purchase the same styles. There have been violent acts and on occasion children have gotten murdered for their designer sneakers and clothing. Furthermore, requiring students to wear uniforms may reduce the pressure to wear designer clothes, create a safer environment for our kids and instill more discipline. In 1994, the Long Beach Unified School District established a uniform policy in their elementary and middle schools. This was an attempt to reduce gang activity and gang violence in their public schools (Anderson, 2002). In 1996, During the Clinton administration, the President stated that discipline and learning needed to be placed back into our schools. He instructed the Federal Education Department to distribute manuals to the nation’s school districts advising them on how they could legally enforce school uniform policies. Now Schools across the nation have required students to wear uniforms or to adhere to some sort of dress code policy. I have spoken to parents and students at my son’s school that argue against school dress codes or public school uniform policies because they believe that they are in violation of the student’s right to self-expression and freedom of speech. Supporters of uniform or dress codes policies argue that they help students focus in the classroom by reducing distractions, preventing gang activity and making socioeconomic barriers between students less evident. Supporters also argue that uniforms or dress codes make schools safer by making it easier to identify intruders and reducing the likelihood of theft of apparel. According to Hudson, these policies have become very controversial, not only among parents and students, but also in the courtrooms. Students have sued their schools for punishments that they’ve received for not following school rules. In Newsom v. Albemarle County School Board, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a portion of a school’s dress code that disallowed clothing that displayed pictures or drawings of weapons. The controversy arose after school officials forced student Alan Newsom to quit wearing his National Rifle Association T-shirt, which depicted three silhouettes of men holding guns and bore the message “NRA Sports Shooting Camp. Hudson also stated that a federal district court in New Mexico applied the rule that a public school student did not have a First Amendment right to wear sagging jeans. In Bivens v. Albuquerque Public Schools, the judge questioned whether sagging pants conveyed any particular message? Hudson stated that sagging is not necessarily associated with any single racial or cultural group, but merely a fashion trend. The judge said that even if sagging somehow constituted a message, the student failed to establish that reasonable observers would understand any message coming from the wearing of sagging pants. There are mixed reviews on whether wearing uniforms have improved student’s academic achievements, but the Long Beach Unified School District has stated that violence and discipline issues have been greatly reduced. The primary goal of the school officials is to create a more productive and safer learning environment for our children and uniform policies or in some cases school dress code policies have achieved that goal. There is definitely a correlation between clothing style and school violence. No civil liberties are being violated. Schools, like any work environment has rules by which we’ve all have to adhere. Self –expression through style of dress should not be allowed to disrupt, interfere or distract the other children from learning or intimidate them in any way. References

Anderson W., (2002). School Dress Codes and Uniform Policies. Retrieved from

Hudson D.L., (April 1, 2002). Clothing, dress codes & uniforms. First Amendment Center. Retrieved from

King K., (January, 1998). “Should School Uniforms be mandated in Elementary and Middle Schools?” New Century School Issues Forum: School Uniforms. Retrieved from

White, K.A., (February, 2000). “Do School Uniforms Fit” School Administrator 57,2: 36-40. EJ 599-101

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