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Currents Trends of
Middle School Education
A safe and structured learning environment is the first requirement of a good school. Children who feel safe and secure will better learn basic American values. In return they will learn the basis of good citizenship and become better students. In response to growing levels of violence in our schools, many parents, teachers, and school officials have been forced to look toward school uniforms as one potentially positive way to reduce discipline problems and increase school safety. It has been observed that the adoption of school uniform policies can promote school safety, improve discipline, and enhance the learning environment. The potential benefits of school uniforms include decreasing violence and theft. Some instances involving designer clothing and expensive sneakers have even led to life-threatening situations among students. Uniforms would also prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school. Uniforms would also teach students discipline and help them resist peer pressure. Uniforms would also help students concentrate on their schoolwork and would help school officials detect intruders who come unwelcome into the school. As a result, many local communities are deciding to adopt school uniform policies as part of an overall program to improve school safety and discipline. California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia have enacted school uniform regulations. Many large public school systems including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Miami, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle and St. Louis have schools with either voluntary or mandatory uniform policies, mostly in elementary and middle schools. In addition, many private schools have required uniforms for a number of years.
Still, other schools have implemented dress codes to encourage a safe environment by prohibiting clothes with certain language or gang colors. The decision to adopt a uniform policy must be made by states and local school districts. For uniforms to be a success, as with all other school initiatives, parents must be involved. We must get the parents involved with the uniform policies from the beginning. Their support of the uniform policy is critical to its success. Parent support is also essential in encouraging students to wear the uniform. A school uniform policy must protect students’ religious expression. A policy must accommodate students whose religious beliefs are greatly burdened by a uniform requirement.
A uniform policy must protect students’ other rights of expression. It must not prohibit students from wearing or displaying expressive items. All of this would cause a problem involving the children’s fifth amendment. For example, a button that supports a political candidate should be allowed as long as such items do not contribute to disruption by substantially interfering with discipline or with the rights of others. A uniform policy must also prohibit students from wearing a button bearing a gang insignia. The policy must also prohibit items that undermine the integrity of the uniform, such as a sweatshirt that bears a political message but also covers or replaces the type of shirt required by the uniform policy. Realistically, speaking its probably more dangerous to allow children to completely express themselves freely. There is another big issue within the implementation of school uniforms. Schools must determine whether to have a voluntary or mandatory school uniform policy.
In the fight for better and safer schools there must be assistance for families that need financial help. In many cases, school uniforms are less expensive than the clothing that students typically wear to school. Nonetheless, the cost of purchasing a uniform may be a burden on some families. School districts with uniform policies have to make provisions for students whose families are unable to afford uniforms. There are many types of assistance that can be made available to disadvantaged families. School districts can provide uniforms to students who cannot afford to purchase them. Also, a great help would come from community and business leaders that would provide uniforms or contribute financial for support of uniforms. Schools and parents working together to make uniforms available for disadvantaged students are also feasible.
Uniforms by themselves cannot solve all of the problems of school discipline, but they can be one positive contributing factor to help discipline the children and bring safety back into our schools. Other initiatives that many schools have used in conjunction with uniforms to address specific problems in their community include aggressive truancy reduction initiatives, drug prevention efforts, student-athlete drug testing, community efforts to limit gangs, a zero tolerance policy for weapons, character education classes, and conflict resolution programs. Working with parents, teachers, students, and principals can make a uniform policy part of a strong overall safety program, one that is broadly supported in the community. There are many model school uniform policies within the United States to pull precedence from. We as a society must decide how we can ensure a safe and disciplined learning environment. There is a major problem if they try school uniforms in conjunction with all those other ideas they won’t know which one is working. It’s really sad to think that in our day and age we must resort to trying so many things just to get safety and discipline in our schools.
Donahue, John W. “There’s Something About a Uniform.” America 20 Jul. 1996: 18- 20.
Gursky, Daniel. ” ‘Uniform’ Improvement?” The Education Digest Mar. 1996: 46-48.
Mancini, Gail Hinchion. “School Uniforms: Dressing for Success or Conformity?” The Education Digest Dec. 1997: 62-65.
Pollitt, Katha. “School Uniforms.” The Nation 27 Apr. 1998: 10.
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