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The implementation of student dress codes has increased over the past decade. The essence of the dress codes vary in reach. Some codes mandate specific uniforms, such as khaki or navy pants with a specific color polo or oxford shirt. Other codes ban specific items, such as flip-flops, midriffs, clothing with particular symbols, or clothing in particular colors. As school districts continue to improve educational outcomes, student dress codes will be a permanent fixture in many cities.
There are various reasons why districts implement dress codes. Commonly given rationales are to stop gang-related activity, increase focus on academics, reduce discipline referrals, and reduce stress associated with socioeconomic status. For example, if every student must wear the same attire, there will not be a focus on designer clothing and shoes. Thus, families in low-income areas will not have the stresses of trying to maintain expensive designer fashions.
Former President Bill Clinton posited a connection between student attire and student violence. In his 1996 State of the Union Address, Clinton
"challenge[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][d] all our schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship. And if it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms."
He reasoned that school uniforms would lead to a decrease in student violence over name brand clothing.
Not all individuals believe in the propriety of student dress codes. There have been numerous federal suits that challenge the constitutionality of district imposed dress requirements. The constitutional objections tend to be in three main categories: (1) a violation of students' First Amendment right to expression; (2) a violation of students' First Amendment right to free expression; and (3) a violation of parents' Fourteenth Amendment liberty right to raise their children in a manner of their choosing.
Although students cannot do whatever they want in the school setting, they do have some rights. In the 1968 landmark Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Court reasoned that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Some petitioners of the school dress code cases use the reasoning of Tinker to argue that dress codes violate the First Amendment rights of students.
In Canady v. Bossier Parish School Board (2001), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school district's dress code did not violate a student's First Amendment rights. The state law at issue in Canady gave local school boards the option to implement dress codes. The local boards were required to give parents written notice of the decision to implement dress codes as well as a rationale. Parents eventually sought an injunction (a legal order requiring someone to do or refrain from doing something) against enforcement of the code. The parents alleged a violation of free expression, religious preferences, and the liberty right to rear children.
Bossier Parish School Board submitted affidavits showing that the dress code caused a reduction in discipline referrals and an increase in test scores. The court explained that the purpose of the code was unrelated to the suppression of student speech and was geared towards increasing educational processes. Thus, the dress code was upheld.
School districts do not always win in dress code cases. In Barber v. Dearborn Public Schools (2003), a high school student wore a shirt with a photograph of former President George W. Bush. Written underneath the photo were the words "International Terrorist." The court in Barber granted the student's injunction against the school district, reasoning that the student was disciplined mainly because of disagreement with the message on the shirt.
In ruling on student dress codes, courts seem to examine the rationale behind implementing and applying the policy. Policies that increase educational processes tend to be upheld. The Supreme Court has yet to directly address this issue.
Now how do you feel about student dress codes?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]