School Dress Codes

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Since the days of the Puritans, laws and rules have been made concerning what is moral, or safe and best for society. Although dress codes are increasing in popularity throughout the United States, educators do not uniformly agree upon the benefits produced by these regulations (king, 1998). There is no certainty that dress codes reduce school violence or improve academic achievement. Furthermore, strict dress codes, which school officials justify because they are aimed at preventing gang violence, have been adopted in several areas that do not have gang problems, undermining some school official's justifications (Wilson, 1998).

This paper will explore some of the issues that effect the debate as to whether or not school dress codes can be used as a problem solving tool. Public school administrators are beginning to consider uniform policies to improve the overall school environment and student achievement. Do dress codes in schools improve academic achievement? The fashion trend at schools, especially urban schools, is largely dominated by children wearing gang-related or gang-like clothing. The problematic issue of gangs and school violence in some schools must be addressed as well. Is there a possible connection between school violence and the type of clothing students wear in school? Many schools are in neighborhoods that have issues with gang activities and gang infiltration is a common occurrence. Would dress codes or uniforms enable school officials to identify a potentially dangerous intruder?

Bodine, A. (2003) School Uniforms and Discourses on Childhood. Childhood, Volume 10 issue 1, pg. 43-63. Retrieved March 7, 2007 from

Ann Bodine’s (2003) research consists of an ethnographic study of the introduction of uniforms in the public schools of one US city, Milpitas, California. An issue that emerged in Bodine’s study was a concern about the economic impact on families affording the cost of separate uniforms for their children in school. Another issue Bodine (2003) discusses is the possibility of schools giving an option to students to only wear sweat shirts and having several styles to choose from or the possibility of an exemption from the uniform policies if petitioned by parents. Bodine’s (2003) study is of the Milpitas community consists of 63,000 residents with an average of 1.86 wage earners per household so these issues were examined closely. The ethnicity of the community was also considered and examined as well.

The study Bodine (2003) consisted of observation and conversation in six of Milpitas schools. Surveys were sent out to patents as well and 486 parents responded. Bodine randomly selected 30 parents to interview as well as 14 children making sure to include all the ethnic backgrounds. Bodine interviewed 39 participants face to face and nine parents and one student by phone. Additional information was used from local and national press; from interviews with teachers, administrators, students and parents. The results of this study came in two concerns one from the public and the other from the schools representatives. The parents of the students were concerned about the economic disparity to the families of the children having to afford the special clothing for school. They were also concerned about social exclusion to children due to a different dress style. Schools were primarily concerned with the ability of families to afford the clothing required but relished the thought of all the students being on equal ground and easily identifiable. Although both parents and school officials agreed that uniforms may improve the security of the school environment it just doesn’t leave the students free to just be themselves so, there were more adverse opinions than positive opinions on the subject.

Wade, K. K. & Stafford, M. E. (2003).
Public School...
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