Mandatory Uniforms in Public Schools





Mandatory Uniforms in Public Schools
Do you want equality among students in your child\'s school? Do you want less violence within your child\'s school? Would you like your daughter to concentrate more on her schoolwork and less on what name brand jeans she is wearing? All this is possible with mandatory uniform policies in public school districts. School uniforms may seem outdated for some people, but in many cases they can improve school spirit, attendance and student behavior. According to The Humanist magazine, former President Bill Clinton\'s 1996 State of the Union Address called for all 16,000 school districts in the country to adopt a uniform policy. The President stated, "If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms" (qtd in Wilkens, screen 1) The public school district in Long Beach, California was the first to take up the mandatory school uniform policy. The school district reported drastic decrease in violence, discipline problems, as well as higher test scores after one year of implementing the new policy (Wilkens, screen 1). Although students feel that wearing uniforms to school stifles individual expression and creativity, mandatory uniforms in public schools promote a positive learning environment because it creates equality among all students, it decreases violence, and students can focus on schoolwork instead of their clothing.
Students along with some parents dispute that mandatory uniform policies within public schools are unconstitutional. They feel that mandatory uniforms in public schools violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, Freedom of Expression. The First Amendment was ratified in 1791 and states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" (Renstrom 723). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also argues that "mandatory uniforms violate students free expression right" (King, screen 3). When wearing uniforms children feel like they have limits on their personal expression. To illustrate, Students perceive their clothing as a way to explicit their emotions, show their creative abilities, express their opinions, and display individualism; if they have to wear uniforms to school the students opportunity to reveal their personality is eliminated. Newsweek reports that some teachers and principals sympathize with the students. A principal at a middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, Norman Isaacs believes that with a students clothing a teacher can get insights on what is going on in the students personal life. He states, "our counselors and teachers monitor the way kids are dressed if we see a big change in the way a student dresses, that sends a signal and tells us we need to address that person" (qtd in "Uniforms Rule", screen 2). Students feel that uniforms at school create a military environment. An environment where everyone is dressed the same and in that same manner must act alike, exhibit the same personalities, and have the same opinions.
Parents also do not want to pay the added expense of uniforms for their children. For instance, parents feel like they would have to pay for two sets of clothes, school and play. Keith King describes a situation in California, in 1995 a lawsuit was filed against the Long Beach Unified School District by the ACLU on behalf of low-income families. The lawsuit claimed that, "the district fails to help low-income students purchase uniforms and punishes students who do not wear them." The ACLU also claimed, " the district does not adequately inform parents about their rights to request exemption from the program." ACLU attornies assert that "low socioeconomic families are going without food, utilities, and rental payments to purchase mandatory school uniforms" (screen 4). Some of the schools who have adopted the mandatory uniform policy will help pay for uniforms for those in need but, the parents think that most schools are in financial need and that money should not be wasted on clothing.
However, students and parents who do not want mandatory uniform policies within their public schools do not know what school is about. School is an educational institution that