Ross - 1 David Ross Professor Wright SP09 – ENG 101 12 May 2009 Students Must Conform, Wear Your
Uniform Wearing simple t-shirts underneath full length black trench coats, two seemingly ordinary senior high school students calmly walked up the West Entrance steps of their high school, opened the doors and disappeared into the infamy we call Columbine. Approximately 43 minutes later, the two young men – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – “ended their rampage by committing double suicide amongst the carnage of 10 other dead students in the school library” (Sheperd 6). The bloody rampage at Columbine High School became an instant catalyst for parents, educators, and law enforcement to try to find ways to protect the nation’s schools and reduce the chances of reoccurrence in the future. One of the many incorrect rumors that came out of the Columbine investigation was that the two killers were members of a school gang called the trench coat mafia. Upon further investigation, it was revealed there were several groups on campus that dressed alike to show their unity. This created the first knee-jerk solution to eliminate the ability for those groups to dress alike and visually create fear or intimidation. The use of school uniforms began to gain momentum as a solution. As a deterrent, “President Clinton promoted greater use of school uniforms” and directed his administration to send a Manual on School Uniforms to the nation's 16,000 school districts” (United 6). With so many options available, the question must be asked: Are mandatory school uniforms a proven and effective first line of defense against violence in schools?
Ross - 2 Let us compare several other ideas against mandatory uniforms and see if they are more effective. “Many school districts across the nation have a dress code or uniform policy as a way to deter school violence and bullying. However, there is a divided line between school officials, parents, and students regarding this sensitive issue (Thompson 6). In 1999 it seemed everyone had a proposed solution to reducing school violence, but very little data to support it. The Reason Public Policy Institute found that “there is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet approach to school violence prevention” (Volokh and Snell 6). The United States Secret Service authored a study called “The Safe School Initiative” using the same criteria they use to evaluate threats against the President of the United States. Their goal was to hopefully identify common traits of all thirty-seven past school shooters and create working profiles that would help prevent future school shootings. Suggestions from the Secret Service included “using metal detectors, on site police presence, locker searches by police dogs or administration, closed campuses, and restricted parking (United 6). Then report also revealed surprisingly enough, only 27% of past shooters “socialized with fellow students who were disliked by most mainstream students or were considered part of a ‘fringe’ group” (6). Mandatory school uniforms was absent from the list. Some law enforcement personnel are of the thought that parents should secure their weapons at home and also take the additional step of rendering firearms ineffectual by the use of trigger locks knowledge of where firearms are “hidden” The first rebellious feedback in regard to mandatory uniforms came from the female population of the schools. They objected for many reasons, least of all and probably unknown to them, was a bit of information in a report from The United States Secret Service. While consolidating known facts about all previous school shootings in hopes of creating a profile of future school shooters, the Secret Service discovered,
Ross - 3 “all of the incidents of targeted school violence examined in the Safe School Initiative were committed by boys or young men” (6). Females wanted to know the reason for taking away their right to wear what they wanted to wear when all evidence pointed to the fact it was unlikely females would ever commit this type of crime. A mandatory school uniform was seen as a sexist decision since females felt only males should be subjected to this rule as all evidence pointed to the fact that males, not females, were the target group associated with school violence. Throughout the country, school administrators worked with school psychologists and the results were several creative and effective ideas. The state of Colorado has a Safe2Tell anonymous tip line that covers any potential threat to safety. The program also includes anonymous and encrypted Web-tipping, says Susan Payne, special agent in charge of school safety and homeland security for the state. In the past 4½ years, the line has prevented 28 planned school attacks, she says. In one incident, there were 33 weapons found. About two-thirds of the calls come from kids, Payne says. "All of us have seen these unspeakable tragedies. I can't think of one that could not have been prevented” (Colorado 6). This idea has proven to be much more successful than mandatory school uniforms at preventing school violence. Another effective program with set up to reduce school violence is The National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere, or SAVE. Their main focus is to “educate students on the growing problem of school violence” (Swan 6). SAVE promotes nonviolence within the public and private school systems and community, as well as education about the effects and consequences of violent acts. SAVE strives to focus attention to all forms of violence, not just the cases of violence that result in death or injury. “In 1995, SAVE was bestowed the President's Service Award (the nation's highest volunteer award) for the dedication
Ross - 4 and determination in keeping the message of non-violence known and keeping schools and communities safe” (6). This type of non-invasive action has proven that open dialogues and continued focus that violence in any form is unacceptable has had an effect on how peers at school treat each other. Reductions in taunting, bullying, and harassment of individuals creates a more stable atmosphere. This also is a much more effective tool that mandatory school uniforms. The ideal solution some people think is the installation and use of stationary metal detectors that students would have to pass through to enter the school. It seems a logical choice since guns and knives are made of metal and detection would be ensured. There are specific issues with this solution which are sometimes overlooked or not addressed as thoroughly as they should be. The cost of the detector must include a budget for the payroll of the personnel needed to operate the metal detectors, ongoing training, and maintenance and repair of older equipment. “How much time will be required to get hundreds, and in many cases thousands, of students screened through the metal detectors and into their first classes on time without disrupting educational programs? Assuming a school decides to operate daily stationary metal detectors at its main entranceway, how will all other doors at the school be secured and staffed to prevent unauthorized entry during student arrival and processing through the main entrance metal detectors? Will all ground-level windows be permanently secured at all times so no one can pass a weapon through an open window to someone who already passed metal detector screening and is in the building? Would doing so even be allowed by the local fire marshal? The failure to staff and run a 24/7 metal detection program would create an opportunity for persons to enter the school during non-detection operation times and store weapons in the building” (Trump 6). I would have to say the installation of metal detectors is only feasible in
Ross - 5 high gang, high crime, and high violence neighborhoods. In that environment, it is certainly more effective than the use of mandatory school uniforms. As with most complex issues that we seek answers for, I have found there is no single strategy, or for that matter even a combination of strategies that can provide 100% guarantee that there will not be a shooting or other act of violence at a school. Good ideas have been implemented that show great promise in helping reduce or prevent the possibility of future school violence. School uniforms is not one of them. Mandatory school uniforms are not a proven or effective first line of defense against violence in schools. My son attends a public middle school in Lake Havasu City, AZ and he is required to wear a school uniform. I do not feel that his wearing a school uniform contributes to a safer environment at school - unless it is made of Kevlar.®
Ross - 6 Works Cited Sheperd, Cyn. “4-20-99: a Columbine site.” 8 May 2009 < http://www.acolumbinesite.com/ index.html> State of Colorado. Department of Public Safety. "Safe2Tell: Make a Call, Make a Difference." Colorado Springs: Colorado Prevention Initiative for School Safety. 04 May 2009 <http://safe2tell.org/>. Swan, Anna. "School Violence: The SAVE Program." Associated Content. 17 May 2006. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/32610/ school_violence_the_save_program.html?cat=48> Thompson, Dawn. “School Uniforms: Good or Bad?” Associated Content. 01 July 2007 <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/291547/ school_uniforms_good_or_bad.html?cat=9> Trump, Ken. "Metal Detectors and School Safety." National School Safety and Security Services. 18 Jun 2008. <http://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/school_metal_detectors.html> United States. Department of Education. “Annual Report on School Safety.” Washington: US Dept.of Education, 4 Oct. 1998 <http://www.ed.gov/pubs/AnnSchoolRept98index.html> United States. United States Secret Service. “The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.” Washington: US Secret Service and the United States Dept. of Education, May 2002 <http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac/ssi_final_report.pdf> Volokh, Alexander., and Lisa Snell. “School Violence Prevention: Strategies to Keep Schools Safe.” 6 Jan 1998. Reason Public Policy Institute.