The great debate-school uniforms

Page 1 of 13

The great debate-school uniforms

By | April 2005
Page 1 of 13
Imagine that you pick your seven-year-old child up from school. He is crying and wearing a different outfit than the one he wore to school. This is naturally upsetting but not as upsetting as your next discovery. His shirt, one you have never seen before, has a large "L" written on the sleeve in permanent marker; his shorts, also not his, are too large, stained and faded. Upon questioning your child, you discover that, despite your best efforts at compliance, your child's clothing has violated the school's uniform policy. Neither you nor your husband was called to bring your child a "compliant" change of clothing; rather a loaner uniform was forced upon your child. He was made to change into these alien clothes (McBride "Student" 1-2).

The debate over mandatory uniforms in the public school system is raging across the country and in our own backyards. Proponents claim uniforms improve many areas in the educational arena while opponents vigorously challenge these claims. Opponents also cite potential civil rights violations while uniform supporters counter that the potential benefits greatly outweigh any loss of freedoms. The issue of mandatory uniforms in the public schools gained the spotlight of national attention following President Clinton's 1996 State of the Union address. During that speech 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" (Clinton 4). The President later visited Long Beach, California, where the first, district wide, mandatory school uniform policy in the country was enjoying seemingly remarkable success. He told those attending his speech that he had signed an order instructing the Secretary of Education to send to all school districts across the nation the newly generated Manual on School Uniforms ("Clinton" 1). The manual outlines specific steps for school districts wishing to implement uniform...