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Meghan Garland

SED 464
11 March 2016
Hot Topic Summation
Dress codes within schools have been an increasingly large topic of conversation in
recent years. Social media sites are blowing up with stories of kids who were sent home or
suspended due to dress code infractions who feel they were wronged. The question lies behind
the reasoning behind determining and enforcing dress codes. Why are dress codes important to a
school environment and where is the line between acceptable dress and inappropriate dress? For
our hot topic, we decided to explore the many different aspects of the dress code issue, focusing
on these two questions as a driving force. Our chosen aspects include the influence of popular
fashion on dress codes and dress code complaints, how religious expression plays into a dress
code, the history of past dress code policies, and how the incorporation of uniforms effect
learning versus how it is effected when students wear their regular clothes. The aspects of
uniforms within schools is a particular interest of mine, so it is the aspect I chose to look into the
most.
Throughout junior high and high school, I did not have the option to wear my personal
clothes at school as the school I attended was designed with uniforms in mind. Throughout these
six years, I personally encountered several pros and cons of wearing uniforms in schools. One of
the major motivations to adopting a uniform policy is to decrease distractions in the classroom
and behavioral issues. Personal experience illustrated that even if it did not decrease such
distractions, it did not increase them. Every class I attended in those six years had students that
were on task and students that were not quite on task. That much seems to remain in every

school. However, the strict uniform added an extra task to the teachers daily schedules. Many
teachers were attentive to making sure students wore belts and had the right colored sweatshirt or
shoes. On more than one occasion, I was asked to leave class in order to report to the office for a
dress code violation. Most students had to report at least once especially due to a forgotten belt.
This attention to detail distracted teachers from their priority of educating students and made
students nervous if they forgot something that day. Many students in other high schools seem to
be resistant to uniform policies as well. In Nevada, for instance, junior high students were asked
to wear uniforms and the vast majority 90 percent of students reported that they
disliked wearing uniforms (Wilde). Whether it be for a lack of comfort or the hassle
involved in remembering specific articles of clothing every day, there is definitely some
dissent toward the idea. In addition, the use of this uniform has the potential to reduce time
required to get ready in the morning because it eliminates the dreaded question of what am I
going to wear today? This leads to every student looking professional and ready to learn, even if
they woke up only a few minutes before. It increases the acknowledgement of the idea that
appearance makes the first impression (Spanner) and could potentially lead to the
acknowledgement that it is important to dress for success later in life.
Another key issue is the topic of freedom of expression. One of the key arguments
against uniforms is that it hinders students first amendment rights. Speaking from personal
experience, this is a valid concern, but one that has several solutions in some cases. The
backpacks at my high school was where there was the most concern. Everyone was required to
carry a black backpack around campus as part of the strict dress code. However, these backpacks
were allowed to have some keychains as long as they were not excessive. The same goes for
shoes, jackets, and jewelry. For the first two years, minimal accessories were permitted, only

black and brown shoes were allowed, and jackets worn in the classroom had to be from the
uniform company in school colors. Over the years the list has expanded to include personal
jackets of neutral colors and shoes are now allowed in any school colors and combinations of
neutral colors. This allows for some freedom of expression where it did not exist before. In the
same study from Nevada, despite the general dislike of the uniforms themselves, 54 percent of
students agreed that they still had their identity while wearing a uniform (Wilde).Though
this dress code is a far cry from being allowed to wear normal clothes to school, it does not
completely hinder self-expression, as is often discussed by critics. According to this article,
allowing students to choose their clothing is an empowering message from the schools that a
student is a maturing person who is entitled to the most basic self-determination (Should
Students Have to Wear Uniforms).These students are getting older and developing their own
style and are gaining maturity, but they may not be able to demonstrate it while they are being
confined to a uniform.
Overall this is a complex issue with many facets that must be discussed with experience
and research together. The disputes between studies and varying experiences illustrates just why
this is a topic of discussion and why it will continue to be an important conversation to have for
years to come. Uniforms are only part of the issue surrounding dress code debates. When looking
into how to best benefit student education it is important to look not only at a uniform option, but
how dress codes were approached in the past and how current fashion and cultural aspects play
into how students should be allowed to dress.

Works Cited
School Uniforms - ProCon.org. (2014, September 12). Retrieved March 17, 2016, from
http://school-uniforms.procon.org/
Spanner, D. (n.d.). The Effect of Uniforms on School Discipline. Retrieved March 17, 2016,
from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/effect-uniforms-school-discipline-28330.html
Wilde, M. (n.d.). Do uniforms make schools better? | GreatKids. Retrieved March 17, 2016, from
http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/school-uniforms/