To DoThe argument whether uniforms should be allowed in school has been debated over the last few decades. By implementing a uniform policy within schools would help reduce the rise of violent crimes. In today’s high schools, too many innocent youths become fatalities due to gang warfare that has spread into the school system. Many parents feel that if a uniform policy was implemented the spread of gang warfare and the idea children have to have name brand clothing would decrease drastically. However others are worried that this policy would infringe on students First Amendment rights. Yet there are other parents that all worried that the uniforms will cost too much. In the following essay, although these issues will be addressed.
Proponents of uniforms argue that the widespread violence in schools is due largely to the gangs. They believe that the distinctive gang colors and symbols are used to intimidate non-gang members and reinforce gang allegiance. Gang members are often found wearing clothing with professional sports teams logos on them. The clothing is often stolen from local stores or from other children. Children who where this kind of clothing to so only because they like it or it is in style. Jim Steinberg of the San Francisco Examiner believes that,” They have become a fashion statement and sometimes a gang statement.” (1) This is why so many parents want the schools to go to a mandatory uniform policy.
Many parents believe that if children wore uniforms, the violence in schools would drop drastically. Long Beach unified school district was the first large urban school district in the United States to implement a mandatory uniform policy. ” In 1994, the Long Beach unified school district in California became the nation’s first large, urban district to require all its elementary and middle school students to wear uniforms. School crime has plunged 76 percent since, says spokesperson Dick Van Der Laan. Attendance is the highest it’s been since 1980. Can the uniform policy take the credit? “Very definitely,” Van Der Laan says.” Uniform set a message, ‘ You are in the business of learning.” (Speer 1)”In the first year following implementation, overall school crime decreased by 36%; sex offenses, by 74%; physical flight to point students, by 51%; weapons offenses, by 50%; assault and battery offenses, by 34%; school suspensions, by 32%; and vandalism, by 18%.” (King 2) “Moreover, greater than 80%of Long Beach Press-Telegram readers support school uniforms.” (King 2) According to the statistics, the majority of the population supports the implementation.
Parents all over the United States fear that their children might be attacked inadvertently for wearing the wrong color scarf or hat that might provoke rivalry among local gangs. Many parents of children victims of gang warfare would like to see uniforms instituted in all schools. According to Dale Stover, “In gang-ravaged Los Angeles, as well as other communities with gang activity, a dress code also helps maintain peace among rival groups by prohibiting the wearing of clothing associated with local gangs.” (2) Opponents of the policy for believe that other factors have to do with the lowering of crime within the school system. Dennis L. Evans believes the following:
Where gang members are concerned, the wearing of school uniforms will be cosmetic at best and will not change the gang mentality or reduce the potential of antisocial, gang related behavior, either on-campus or off. Ironically, mandating the wearing school uniforms might even make it easier to be a gang members and school administrators could no longer readily recognized the trappings of the gangs.” (1)
With this in mind, whom do we believe?
When children come of age and have to go to school, they learn very quickly that in order to fit in you have to wear what everyone else is wearing. These clothing accessories too often cost well over a person’s weekly salary. “All of the pressure could be eliminated if everyone dressed alike.” (Dyson 1) When kids are young, they enjoy dressing like in their best friend. There are many times when I was kid that I wished that I could dress just like the kids that had money. I always thought that if I dressed like them I might become more like them. Unfortunately, my mother never had the money. By implementing the policy in all 16,000 districts throughout the United States the School uniforms will level the playing field in classrooms by removing the messages of social and economic status carried in clothes; uniforms tailored to individual schools and may enhance the school’s sense of community and students’ self-esteem.”(The Economist A32) There would no longer be the economic barrier that separates one child from another. Children will no longer pick on the misfits that are different from them.
Many families fear that the mandatory policy of uniforms and school infringes on the students First Amendment rights of freedom of speech. Two recent court cases that involved the First Amendment may help decide it’s very important issue. ” In the landmark case Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the Supreme Court empathetically asserted that polo school students do not” shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” (Paliokas 2) “In 1988 the Supreme Court expanded on the special nature of First Amendment law surrounding the public elementary and secondary schools. In Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier, the high court found that public schools generally are not open public forums in the same sense as streets or parks and that school officials may therefore impose reasonable restrictions on free speech. This ruling was consistent with earlier Supreme Court announces that the school’s unique role in promoting respect for authority and traditional values and in preparing individuals for participation assistance justifies greater latitude in regulating speech on school property.” (Paliokas 2) However many times when this issue goes to court, groups such as the ACLU will try to persuade us why this violates our First Amendment rights.” Lauren Seigel, who is director of the ACLU Public Education Department, has stated no one knows for certain whether the school uniforms are actually beneficial.” (King 3)
Developing a mandatory uniform policy does not infringe on students First Amendment rights. The fact they have to take into consideration is that these children are still minors. School districts are only implementing these policies in order to protect them from the dangers that come with living in this modern world. J. Michael Kennedy points out that “Teachers emphasize how children respond much better in the classroom when they are all dressed the same.” (2) “They give students an esprit and help improve morale. Kids can concentrate more on their studies than on what’s fashionable-at least during school hours.”(Forbes 1) So how can these policies take away students rights when it is proven that they are able to concentrate on their work and not on who is wearing the latest fad and who is not?
Families from the lower income brackets fear that the uniforms are too expensive. They point out that not only do they have to buy the uniforms but they also have to supply their children with clothes for when they are not in school. In 1995, the ACLU helped a group of parents file a lawsuit against the Long Beach and Oakland school districts. According to the lawsuits, the school districts did not follow state law that requires districts to give parents the option of allowing their children to wear uniforms. This lawsuit was settled out of court the following year. However, the school districts agreed that they would expand their financial aid for families that cannot afford the uniforms. The factor that they do not take into consideration is that the uniforms generally cost much less than buying name brand department-store clothes.
The school districts argue that it is much cheaper for a family to buy their children a week’s worth of uniforms instead of name brand clothes.” They point to the relatively low-cost uniforms (a typical girls uniform might cost between $25 and $35) is a major benefit. (School Uniforms 146) In many school districts there are nonprofit organizations that give out over $100,000.00 in financial aid to families that allow them to buy these uniforms. School districts also point out that the uniforms can be passed down from one child to another. By doing this they would come out ahead in the long run.
The controversy whether to implement the uniform policy has gone on for quite a few years now. Both sides of the argument give compelling reasons why or why not the policy should be implemented. But with the rise in the violent crimes in the school system, I feel that its his time to protect our children and implement it. If we do not do it now, America’s children will grow up knowing only violence. They will not know what it’s like to live a life without fear. So if you have a chance to implement the uniform policy; do it.
Dressed For Survival. The Economist 3 Sept. 1994: A32
Dyson, Sen. Roy. Do You Favor Mandatory Uniforms In The Public Schools?
12 July 1996. Online Posting. Southern Maryland Online. 04 Mar. 1999