A couple of years ago, an attorney was overheard talking with her clients outside of a Flint courtroom. Referring to a teenager also waiting in the corridor, she quietly said to her clients, “He’s going to jail today.”
The teen was wearing a very expensive red leather jacket with black sleeves. A giant marijuana leaf was embroidered on the back of the coat. To complete the look, the male teen was wearing baggy jeans with the waistband hanging below his butt cheeks, exposing a good chunk of his boxer shorts.
The attorney and her clients were left to wonder where this kid goes to school, and whether they have a dress code, or uniforms.
The pros and cons of school uniforms vs. a strict dress code has been ongoing since kids started going to school.
Benefits of uniforms
According to greatschools.org, the benefits of school uniforms include that they:
• Help prevent gangs from forming on campus
• Encourage discipline
• Help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes
• Help identify intruders in the school
•Diminish economic and social barriers between students
• Increase a sense of belonging and school pride
Angel Rynearson, 23, attended St. John School, graduating from eighth grade in 2008. She said the uniforms were “super expensive.” Toward the end of her time there, she said the uniforms had to be ordered through the school.
“I hated them and other kids teased us about them,” Rynearson said. “Even the girls in my own school would tease each other if a girl ever wore pants instead of skirts.
“I don’t think kids today should wear uniforms,” she added. They should be able to express themselves in an appropriate way, of course, because some kids wear some crazy things to school. I think they would focus more on school if they were relaxed in their own wardrobe.”
Many local residents offered their opinion on this topic on Facebook. Here’s what they had to say.
Sharon Paulin agrees. “Uniforms are a good idea in most circumstances,” she said. “My grandkids attend parochial school in Bay City. Uniforms don’t mean what they used to mean. The shirts, skirts and slacks can be purchased at Kmart, Walmart, J.C. Penney’s or Sears … So the rich kids and the scholarship kids wear pretty much the same thing, unless someone is looking at tags.”
Donna Zeman speaks from experience. “Yes to uniforms. There’s no competition with clothing styles, and no bullying from kids whose parents can afford better quality clothes and the latest fashions.
“This comes from a mom who not only was teased most of my young life, but also whose kids were teased and bullied about some of the clothes they wore or didn’t wear,” she added. “Kids will find their own individuality in many other ways.”
Dave Cruickshank said, “My kids attend Holly Academy. They have required uniforms and I like it. It takes the branding of clothes out of the mix. Just one less distraction so they can concentrate on school instead of who’s wearing what.”
Denise Ketchmark said she favors school uniforms for all grades. “It takes away the morning decision of ‘what should I wear,’ there’s no brand name competition as everyone wears the same brand.”
Nancy Anderson Hanks said she has mixed feelings. “Not everyone can afford to clothe their children in the latest fashions. Uniforms may result in less bullying, just my thought.”
School uniforms are easier, said Heather Edmonds. “It takes away from stress for kids who may not have the money to keep up with the latest trends, and as we all know kids can be mean.”
On the opposing side
Those who oppose school uniforms say they:
• Violate a student’s right to freedom of expression
• Are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence
• Make students a target for bullies from other schools
• Are a financial burden for poor families
• Are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education
• Are difficult to enforce in public schools
Mary Rendon, who parents her two granddaughters, says no to uniforms. “Our kids need to find their own individuality. They can’t do that if they all look the same.”
Veronica Pheasant said, “No, no uniforms for public schools but there should be rules and limitations as always and they should be enforced with consequences as well as extra privileges for not breaking the rules, because once an offender, always a repeat offender.”
April Bland doesn’t like the idea of uniforms either.
“Why make them want to act out more later,” she said. “I do think that schools should have one of their noon aides stay an extra hour or so and check clothes. I am so tired of seeing bottom of butt cheeks and so far up their crotch with the girl clothes.”
Bland said her nephew got into trouble because his tank top arm openings went too low on the side, and the girl next to him...“You couldn’t see the bottom of her shorts because they were so far up her crotch. That ticks me off,” she said. “You want men to respect women and get all mad when they don’t. How about if parents buy some clothes that fit their daughters. They’re out there, you just gotta look. Teach her how to respect herself so the boys can respect her and not see every part she owns on display.”
Hanks, too, said, “Has anyone actually seen what some of the girls are wearing to school? Such distractions for hormonal teenagers.”
Diana Davis said maybe not uniforms, but at least a dress code that everyone has to follow — teachers included.
Elizabeth Lowe said, “We wore extremely ugly school uniforms at a parochial school. I hated them. I also hated when my son had to wear almost a uniform to a charter school, with collared shirts tucked in, and a belt … I do favor rules regarding clothing (ban the yoga pants, sketchy sayings, etc.) but I do not favor uniforms whatsoever, or any sort of arbitrary rules. When someone decides that one brand or one style or one color will work for everyone, inevitably it will be unflattering for someone.”
Local rules on dress and grooming
All four of the school districts in the tri-county area (Fenton, Holly, Lake Fenton and Linden) have rules regarding dress and grooming. While some are worded differently, they all expect students to use good taste in dress and grooming appropriate to the learning activity.
Some of the types of dress local schools prohibit include, but are not limited to, fashion that may pose a safety risk such as choke chains or certain spiked bracelets, etc. They also prohibit mutilated or torn or ripped clothing, pajamas and slippers, and fashions that are too revealing such as underwear showing, cleavage exposed, halters or tops that expose the midriff, shorts or skirts that are shorter than fingertip level, etc.
Fashion with profane or obscene suggestions, or that are sexually suggestive are prohibited. Any item of clothing that bear hate, lack of tolerance or inflammatory messages cannot be worn to school. The same holds true for fashion that advocates the use of illegal substances, or that advertise drug, alcohol or tobacco-related messages.
The student handbook for Fenton Area Public Schools reads, “While fashion changes, the reason for being in school does not. Students are in school to learn.”