ENG 122 English Composition II
June 15, 2014, 2014
What does education have to do with the color of socks?
Many public schools throughout the United States have been implementing mandatory uniform and dress code policies. This decision is causing controversy between school officials, students and parents. The controversy over acceptable attire within the public school system, started back in the 1960s. Three students from Des Moines, Iowa sued the school district when they were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Government's policy in Vietnam (Tedford, 2009). This Supreme Court case became known as Tinker v Des Moines and was the "first big victory" supporting students' rights (Holding, 2007).
The Supreme Court ruled that students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech ... at the schoolhouse gate" as long as they don't cause "substantial disruption" at school (Tedford, 2009). Meaning, students have the right to utilize their freedom of speech within the school walls. They do not have to leave their rights at the door before they walk onto school property. Students can use their right to freedom of speech as long as it is not disrupting classes and causing a disturbance.
Courts gave students even more rights over the next decade, but the rise of drugs and alcohol on campuses made judges increasingly sympathetic to schools. In the '80s, the Supreme Court cut back the rights granted in Tinker vs Des Moines. Telling schools they could limit student speech that was "vulgar and offensive" or "sponsored" by the school in, for example, a student newspaper (Holding, 2007). As time went on, and other influences started infecting public schools, the courts revised their original ruling in Tinker v Des Moines to be more in favor of the schools instead of for the students. By doing this, schools could control certain attire that could be labeled “vulgar and offensive.” Schools could also control activities “sponsored” by the school system, for example, a newspaper published by the school.
The ongoing dilemma of the pros and cons of public schools having a mandatory uniform dress code continues to this very day. School uniforms should not be mandatory in public schools because they prevent children from showing their individuality through dress. They do not improve learning, or reduce violence in schools, and most importantly, they are an added expense to families.
First, children should be allowed to wear everyday clothes to school, allowing them to be individuals and self-expressive, while still following a simplified dress code. Self-expression provides children with an opportunity to demonstrate their individuality and gain self-confidence. Self-expression also enables children to enhance problem-solving skills that help them cope with their feelings, relieve stress and anxiety, and develop a stronger sense of emotional well-being (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2013).
Stifling the children's right to express themselves can be very harmful if not handled properly. The public school system when enforcing strict uniform dress code policies are doing just that. They are taking away the children's rights to express themselves through the power of individuality; by having the public see them as the same as everyone else. It is no secret that every individual; adult or child, is different in their own way. So why are the children expected to dress and be the same as their classmates and peers?
Toni Kay Scott, a seventh grader, with straight A's at Redwood Middle School in Napa, California was sent home from school because of a nose ring and Winnie the Pooh socks (Holding, 2007). Redwood Elementary did have a dress code. It stated; all students must wear solid colored shirts, and pants, or skirts. Toni was wearing a blue denim