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School Uniforms

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School Uniforms: Are School Uniforms Constitutional or in Violation of Student Rights
Danielle Grider
Ivy Tech Community College
ENG111-15H-H1
March 18, 2012
Wendy Kruger

School Uniforms: Are School Uniforms Constitutional or in Violation of Student Rights

For the past decade, educators, parents and students have debated over the issue of regulating student dress codes. While uniforms are mostly utilized by private schools, uniforms are making their way into public schools in the United States. The question becomes are uniforms unconstitutional and do they take away students’ rights, or do they create a safer and more positive learning environment. Since uniform policies are growing more popular in public middle schools and high schools, this has become a highly debated issue.
Many people believe that uniforms can create a safer and more positive learning environment for students. According to Stephen Daniels (2001), who is the director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council, dress codes and uniforms reduce conflict associated with name brand and gang clothing, decreases the gap between the poorer and richer students, and encourage a sense of equality that helps with the overall order and discipline. Daniels gives statistics to show the effectiveness of school uniforms according to principals that have a uniform policy in their schools: 79 percent believe uniforms have positive effects on classroom discipline; 67 percent saw an improvement in student concentration; 62 percent noticed a positive effect on school safety; and 75 percent indicated a positive effect on peer pressure among students. The positive effects can decrease the current problem of bullying in our schools, which is a major issue in the US today. Uniforms take some of the judgments away from the labels some students acquire because of the clothing they wear. Clothing that indicates gang affiliation is also a problem and can cause intimidation and fear in schools. Uniforms can help with school safety by reducing ways in which gang members can identify themselves, decreasing the number of conflicts stemming from socioeconomic status, such as comments and personal attacks about who has better clothes, and helping school faculty to easily identify nonstudent trespassers, and other visitors in the hallways who will stand out in the crowd. According to Larry Wilder (2007), head of the Center for Research on Aggression at Fresno Pacific University School of Education, uniforms encourage a “sense of belonging” because they promote unity among the students and help a troubled student feel like a part of a supportive whole instead of an outcast. As a result, the learning environment improves and makes it easier for students to learn. David Brunsma, (2010) head of the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech, believes school uniforms would save parents money. “The use of school uniforms is more affordable to families because there is not as much pressure to buy expensive, trendy clothing”, says Brunsma in the NAESP Principal's Porta, a journal of school uniform polices. In Brunsmas’ view, the initial investment for a uniform would cost much less than a new wardrobe containing the “coolest” styles. Children from families who cannot afford the newest trendy clothing would not stick out; uniforms would make everybody more equal. According to Brunsma, “children may envy other children’s clothing and lack the financial resources to purchase similar styles . . . school uniforms may reduce these occurrences”. Fashion interest combined with peer pressure can cause spending more money that some families cannot afford.
However, some parents would argue that uniforms would prevent them from shopping at resale shops and sending their kids to school in clothing handed down from friends and relatives therefore uniforms would not save them money. Parents would also have to provide clothing for when their children are not in school, which would cost them more money. Although students are not concerned with the cost of uniforms they are concerned with the fact that they believe their rights and freedom of expressions is being taken away by the school uniforms policies. Kent J. Fetzer (2002) writes in an article, “It may seem a trivial matter to some, but then again, should any loss of our basic personal freedoms be considered trivial? I think not.” (p.A14) Kent believes that school uniforms are against freedom of expression, which has long been a hallmark of our democracy, and any loss of its privilege is deserving of our attention. Not only do some people believe that school uniforms are unconstitutional but they also promote conformity, which takes away from individuality. High school is typically a time when kids begin to distinguish themselves from one another. Students begin to develop their own sense of personal style, desperately trying to both fit in and stand out simultaneously. Being self-conscious and often lacking the confidence needed to assert them, teens are forced to use clothing and outward appearance as the means to manifest this individuality.
School uniforms have often been referred to as the “Band-Aid” solutions to school gang violence and discipline in schools. They are called that because it doesn’t change who the person is just because you put different clothes on them. While most gangs are recognized by the color of the clothes that particular group wears, the students could just as easily be recognized by a piece or jewelry or a hairstyle. According to Scott Key, (2007) uniforms supposedly add more discipline to students during school hours, but many schools are reporting increases in the number of detentions and suspensions due to dress code violations. Now students are missing even more class time because of the school-mandated dress code. How much attention do teachers need to be taking away from their lessons to discipline students for not wearing the proper attire?
The stakeholders in the debate about school uniforms all have one major thing in common. They all want what is best for the students and faculties. Even thought they may not share the same viewpoint on the subject their goal is to make a positive learning environment for the student, whether that be allowing students to choose their own clothing or mandating a school uniform policy. The School Districts have to look at all sides and decide what they think is best for their district. The major parts of the debate are the question of whether uniforms are in violation of the constitutional rights. Some believe that uniforms infringe upon a student’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression but others believe uniforms do not suppress freedom of speech so they are not in violation of the First Amendment.
In conclusion, there are many viewpoints on whether uniforms are effective in public schools. While debates will continue as to whether or not uniforms make schools safer, students smarter, and unified or if they stifle freedom of expression and take away individuality, school uniforms will not likely be going away any time soon. In fact, 15.5 percent of public schools have adopted uniforms in the 2007-2008 school year, according to the Department of Education, which was an increase of about 6 percent from a decade earlier. As more schools adopt a uniform policy the debate will continue to rise and people will become more passionate about their beliefs.

References

Daniels, Stephen. "School Dress Codes Are Necessary and Constitutional." Students' Rights. Ed. Jamuna Carroll. 
Opposing Viewpoints Series. Greenhaven Press, 2005. Web. 27 Oct. 2011
 http://ic.galegroup.com.indianapolis.libproxy.ivytech.edu.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=Viewpoints&disableHighlighting=false&prodId=OVIC&action=e&windowstate=normal&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010398217&mode=view&userGroupName=imcpl45550&jsid=53b8eba91dbb0a52279d71d80a709692 Fetzer, Kent J. "School Uniforms Stifle Freedom of Expression." School Policies. Ed. Jamuna Carroll. Opposing Viewpoints Series. Greenhaven Press, 2008. Web. 27 Oct.2011. http://ic.galegroup.com.indianapolis.libproxy.ivytech.edu.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=Viewpoints&disableHighlighting=true&prodId=OVIC&action=e&windowstate=normal&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010509218&mode=view&userGroupName=imcpl45550&jsid=fa26acb46d5c9fd9b9ea2a618b0853fe "School Uniforms." Current Issues: Macmillan Social Science Library. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. http://ic.galegroup.com.indianapolis.libproxy.ivytech.edu.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/ic/ovic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&disableHighlighting=true&action=e&windowstate=normal&catId=GALE%7C00000000LVYX&documentId=GALE%7CPC3021900151&mode=view&userGroupName=imcpl45550&jsid=9e8c76f2d4dde154c48fbd93433b9a87 Wilder, Larry, and Scott Key. “Pros and Cons of School Dress Code.” FPU News. 11 Nov. 2007. Web. 22 Jan. 2012. .…...

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