The Register recently reported that Forest School will be piloting a student uniform program next year. I am opposed to uniforms in public schools because they violate children’s First Amendment rights. While the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet addressed the issue of school uniforms per se, it has held that individual’s can and do wear clothing to express ideas and opinions (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 1969), Clothing is a form of personal expression, and in Tinker, the Supreme Court determined that school officials do not have free reign to abridge student’s constitutional rights.
Proponents of school uniforms believe they are a magical panacea to all the ills of the school system such as bullying and other disciplinary problems, as well as will diminish differences among socioeconomic levels. However, there is no empirical evidence that conclusively proves that to be true. NONE. According to the Register, Forest School is supposed to be tracking discipline issues to see how they compare when uniforms are required. Unless rigorous research is undertaken by someone who actually knows how to do it, the data gathered will be anecdotal and meaningless. Additionally, I believe there is a bias toward uniforms at Forest School so the results of the research will be skewed.
The Register quoted a parent on the school’s governance council as saying “the objective is to enhance the general school climate while elevating a level of pride. . . It’s all about learning.” Well yes, school is about learning. But you know what? It’s also about teaching! And that’s the element I see missing in this situation. Teaching children right from wrong is what is needed – not slapping a uniform on a child and thinking that all will be ok. Our teachers and parents need to show children what is appropriate to wear to school, and what is not. Teachers and administrators need to enforce the existing dress codes that all our schools currently have in place. School uniforms will not make up for lack of parenting and teaching.
Elevating a level of pride? Really? I am sure many of you are familiar with the phrase “clothes do not the man make.” You don’t get pride by putting on a uniform. If that was the case, we’d have loads of prideful people in our jails. Pride comes from within, by who you are, by what you do. Soldiers, police, and fire professionals get pride from the job they do, not by the uniform they put on each day.
Children are guaranteed the same rights and freedoms as adults under the Constitution. No one seems to be taking that into consideration in this situation, and unfortunately children don’t have a voice of their own to fight for their rights. I find it appalling that school uniforms have been given so much time and attention by parents, teachers, school administrators, and the Board of Education. Their efforts would be much better served looking for ways to close the achievement gap in test scores, incorporate today’s technology in the classroom, and helping our children get more exercise and better nutrition in school.
School uniforms equal herd mentality and lazy parenting skills. Individuality and diversity in our children should be celebrated, not stamped out by making everyone look the same. It’s a slippery slope – uniforms today, and then what other forms of censorship come next?