The reality of school dress codes – pros, cons, and real outcomes: are they really a relief to parents and an inhibitor to school violence?

What You Need to Know

In response to surges of violence, gang activity, and clothing and accessory thefts, many school boards have taken action due to mindfulness of their responsibilities to provide safe learning environments, with a solution they thought should counter these instances: dress codes and school uniforms. 

All in favor say that uniforms:

  • Make schools safer
    • reduce gang influence
    • minimize violence by reducing sources of conflict
    • help identify trespassers
  • Relieve parents
    • less pressure to buy the latest fashions
    • spend less money on child wardrobes
  • Help erase cultural and economic differences among students
  • Set a tone for serious study
  • Facilitate school pride
  • Improve attendance
  • Enhance students' self-concepts, classroom behavior, and academic performance

All opposed say that uniforms:

  • Infringe upon students' First Amendment rights to freedom of expression
  • Interfere with students' natural tendency to experiment with their identities
  • Represent tools of administrative power and control
  • Offer piecemeal approach to racial and socioeconomic injustices
  • Can discriminate against students from minority backgrounds
  •  Fail to erase social class lines as intended, as status indicators such as jewelry, backpacks and bikes are unregulated
  • Are unfeasible in high schools, where students are older and more independent
  • Are an improper basis for policy dictating students' rights to public education

According to the Long Beach Unified School District, the first to implement such policy, during the first year they saw decreases in:

  • suspensions, by 32%
  • school crime, by 36%
  • fighting, by 51%
  • vandalism, by 18%

Attendance at one elementary school reached a high of 96%.

Chicago, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York and Virginia schools made similar claims.

Most legal challenges have resulted from a clash between students' rights to free expression and responsibility of public-school authorities to provide safe learning environment.

How You Can Help

  • If your child's school does not implement a uniform policy, you should still make a point of helping your child develop a sense of individual style by being themselves while still being respectful of others within an awareness of possible perceptions and pride in how they will be perceived based on clothing choices.
  •  If your child's school does enforce a uniform policy, he can still express himself in uniform, although it may simply require a little more thought and effort wherever respectful accessories may come in – but there's never been anything wrong with a little creativity.

For more on this topic, please read the full article: