The need to introduce dress codes in all educational institutions can be listed among the most widely discussed topics regarding students’ rights. Today, many researchers against the introduction of strict rules for school children refer to creative ability and self-expression in their arguments. Dress codes, and especially school uniforms, urge students to wear clothes that they do not choose. To some extent, it runs counter to the freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment (“School dress codes,” 2017).
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Self-expression is extremely important for teenagers, but not all its forms are socially acceptable. Instead of letting children wear clothes that they want, about two-thirds of schools in the United States utilize dress code policies that are rather strict (“School dress codes,” 2017). In the context of dress codes, self-expression remains a tricky question. However, it does not always involve wearing something really provocative or even offensive, such as clothes with controversial slogans. Many children who do not belong to subcultures just want to choose their favorite colors or express their mood with the help of clothes, and prohibiting it does not seem just.
Self-expression can also be related to socialization and differences between social groups, and dress codes attempt to create “artificial” uniformity. Being urged to wear only approved clothes, students are deprived of an opportunity to understand the differences between social groups and the unique problems of their social class. For instance, practices banning certain hairstyles popular among racial minorities are still used in some institutions “that were exclusively white” two decades ago (Chutel, 2018, para. 4).
Thus, some dress code rules can be regarded as harmful because they decrease the visibility of racial and ethnic minorities. Importantly, this tendency is true for social classes; when all children are dressed the same, social inequality becomes less visible, but it does not disappear.
In the modern world, dress codes are also used to promote the “right” relationships between men and women, which makes them harmful for the latter. For example, many types of clothes popular among female students (especially during hot weather) are considered to be “sexually suggestive” (“School dress codes,” 2017, para. 7). According to the proponents of such rules for teenage girls, short skirts and similar clothes contribute to sexual crime in schools (“School dress codes,” 2017). As a result, female students are objectified and shamed based on their clothing choices.
Despite the popularity of arguments about creativity, school dress codes are believed to have a variety of advantages related to their initial intended purposes. One of the functions of school uniforms is to minimize differences in appearance and, therefore, improve student safety (“School uniforms,” 2018). At the same time, the positive impact of dress codes is related to students’ academic performance (Daniels, 2005). By creating uniformity, stricter rules manage to distract children from “showing off their wealth” or demonstrating subculture or religious affiliation (“School uniforms,” 2018, para. 4).
Given the ability of these restrictions to reduce conflicts and prevent educational stratification, more attention is paid to the acquisition of knowledge during lessons. The positive effects of measures for creating uniformity were observed in a variety of experiments. After the implementation of school uniform policies in a school district in California, fights between students decreased by more than fifty percent, and even more, significant decreases were observed in drug usage (“School uniforms,” 2018). Thus, the positive effects of uniforms should also be acknowledged.
Chutel, L. (2018). Dress codes that restrict natural hairstyles harm black students. Web.
Daniels, S. (2005). School dress codes are necessary and constitutional. Web.
School dress codes. (2017). Web.
School uniforms. (2018). Web.