Are school uniforms the answer to end gang and teen violence in the public schools or is it a cheap educational reform? Even though parent’s don’t have the money to pay for school uniforms, school’s should enforce student’s wearing uniforms because uniforms help minimize gang colors in the school and student’s will not wear clothing that will promote drugs and sex. There are many different opinion and ideals to school uniforms, but in actuality which is the best for the school itself, and the students that attend it.
Over the past few years, the media has covered many stories, where the attacks on faculty members and much more frequent and children of all age groups and grade levels are being killed over designer clothing, shoes and so on and so forth. With all the attention the schools are getting, about such heinous crimes; it has been reported that the school districts and politicians need to act quickly, and before the situation at hand gets out of control. It is sad to think that the children in the United States are getting hurt, assaulted, and killed almost everyday over a pair of designer jeans, or a nice blouse and shirt. It sickens me to think that those people get away with such things, as if it’s ok to beat someone up on the side of the street for a nice shirt.
In 1995, Long Beach, California, had drawn national attention as they were the first public-school district in the United States to adopt the mandatory school uniforms. After a year had gone by since the Long Beach school district had adopted the mandatory school uniforms, they had notice the dramatic decrease in the violence and discipline problems, and they also had notice that the students were having higher test scores. This was a great accomplishment the school district because it seemed that the uniforms were taking its toll on the students, and they realized that the school wasn’t going to deal with the violence in the previous years.
“President Clinton visited Long Beach in 1995 and subsequently urged all school to consider mandatory school uniforms. The advantages were outlined in the Manual on School Uniforms, which the president instructed the Department of Education to distribute to all 16,000 school districts in the country. In his 1996 State of the Union Address, Clinton said, “If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to requires their students to wear uniforms” (Julia Wilkins, 1999).
I believe that school uniforms are a great idea, because from the parent’s perspective they don’t have to worry about buying expensive clothes throughout the year when they grow out of them, and also they are not worried about what they are wearing, in regards to revealing articles of clothing when not in uniform dress code. There are many reasons why the policy is a great idea, it encourages discipline on the student body’s behalf, and it helps the students resist the peer pressure of having to buy new and trendy clothing. On the security point of view of wearing the school uniform is that, it would help the school to identify predators and intruders that may lurk the hallways. Uniforms give parent’s a sense of being in control, on what their children are wearing when they are not around; also it relieves the stress of gang violence on the schools behalf. Gang colors are a major threat on today’s public schools and by incorporating uniforms, schools will not have to worry about colors, because the design of the uniforms will be well planned and it won’t coincide with a gangs color. Also as a school, they should be able to give the students options, by giving the student body options; they will appreciate the idea better, and also give then a sense of belonging and school pride. When I was in the 6th grade getting ready to go to the 7th grade, the middle school that I was getting ready to transfer to had mandatory uniforms, but because it was going to be the first year that the middle school incorporated the uniform policy we didn’t have much of choice but on what color are the shorts and t-shirts were going to be. The following year, we were able to choose if we wanted to keep the same printed shorts, wear our own jean shorts, or jeans. It was decided by the whole student body that we of course wanted to wear our own shorts, but there was always a twist. The shorts that we were allowed to wear could be no shorts than the tip of your longest finger, which of course was the middle finger. For the first few months the new shorts rule was in effect, there was a random dress code inspection for all of those who were wearing their own shorts; and for those who did not comply were given detention.
After a while, the dress code inspection became a nuisance to some of the students, so we discontinued wearing the shorts, and just stuck to wearing our own jeans, which of course made things a lot easier for us. The uniform policy is a great idea, but when the school takes the policy a little overboard, the student body may not want to comply with the districts demands. With uniforms, comes with a lot of rules and the whole do this and do that. So, if you think about it in the student’s perspective, if you want us (the students) to wear the uniforms, then why not let the student council design the uniforms, and bring it forth to the student body and have a vote. This in all honesty would be fair, because the students will have to wear it and not the faculty, not unless the faculty decide to wear it along with the students so that the students wouldn’t feel as if they were forced to wear them.
On the opposing end of the situation, some people may feel that uniform policy will send out an anti-individuality message to the students and often times some of the parents. “If young people are to understand that a cornerstone of our freedom is the primacy of the individual-over government, over the collective, over any non-voluntary association-then sticking them all into look-alike clothes is a poor way to teach it” (Jamuna Carroll, 2008). Is it what this person said, have any truth to it? By the school district making the children wear the uniforms regardless of the family’s income a little too much? Maybe the some of the public outsiders make a valid point. By having these children wear uniforms in a public school, it takes away from their freedom of expression; and by having them all wear the same thing, it takes away from their individuality and creativeness. Some may see the policy as a financial burden for the poor families, but of course the district would offer financial assistance to families who could not afford the uniforms. For every bump in the road, there is always a solution to the problem. I am positively sure that the school districts have taken all the pros and cons into consideration, even though they know that the uniforms are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education.
“Studies have been adduced demonstrating improved scholastic performance in conjunction with the wearing of school uniforms. I will not attempt to gainsay these results other that to state that even if true, it is still insufficient justification to warrant encroachment upon the rights of an individual” (Jumana Carroll, 2008). There are schools in 21 different states and the District of Columbia have mandated some sort of uniform policy. Some cities have a widespread uniform use in their public schools:
· 95% of New Orleans’ public schools require uniforms
· 85% of Cleveland’s public schools require uniforms
· 80% of Chicago’s public schools require uniforms
· 65% of Boston’s public schools require uniforms
· 60% of Miami’s public schools require uniforms
· 50% of Cincinnati’s public schools require uniforms
All these statics were provided by EducationBug.Org, 2010.
In regards to all the schools that have a mandatory uniform policy, it has been noted that the crime rates have dropped drastically, and that the student’s grades have picked up. I still believe that the uniform policy is a great idea, and that all schools should pick up on this new fad and upcoming fad. As I have explained earlier some people oppose to this idea, because they feel that it takes away from there freedom of expression. Although, I do believe that it does to a certain extent, it’s to better the education system and the student’s who go to school, and want to learn in a safe environment.
I can’t say that there is a conclusion to this school uniform debate, because in fact it still is an ongoing problem. There are many pros and cons to the idea, but at the end of the day is it what’s right for the student? Or is it what’s right for the school itself? These are few of the many questions that the parents and students ask the department of education everyday. We just don’t want to put a band-aid on the issues of school violence; we need to target it at the source of the problem. Gang violence is the number one problem in America’s schools, but does uniform’s really prevent anything from that. Some may say no, because uniforms make the student’s a target for bullies from other schools. But, it really does depend on the area that you live in. So as we may all know now, uniforms can be a good and bad thing, and there are many debates that can prove my point. For now, all we can do is watch and see where this mandatory uniform policy takes us, and only hope for the best. We need to give the students a voice in this debate and have them state their own opinions, rather than telling them what to do. They already get told what to do on a daily basis, the least we could do, is to let them vote on the issue at hand, to better themselves, the school, and the violence that trendy clothes are associated with.
By Marlyn Phaneuf
Julia Wilkins, (1999). The Humanist. The Answer to Violence in American School or a Cheap Educational Reform?
Part I: Northwest Florida Daily News; Part II: Kent J. Fetzer. "School Uniforms Stifle Freedom of Expression." Opposing Viewpoints: School Policies. Ed. Jamuna Carroll. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Apollo Library. 26 Apr. 2010 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010509218&source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=apollo&version=1.0>.
EducationBug, (2010) A Complete Listing of Educational Resources: Public School Uniform Statistics. Retrieved from, http://www.educationbug.org/a/public-school-uniform-statistics.html on April 26, 2010