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County Issue / School Uniforms

June 01, 1993

Hueneme Elementary School District has shelved a proposal requiring middle-school students to wear uniforms as a way to discourage gang attire. District officials, who had

suggested the idea, felt the khaki uniforms also would provide an inexpensive clothing alternative and create a more serious academic environment. What do you think?

* David Saunders

Eighth-grader, E.O. Green Junior High School in the Hueneme district


Requiring uniforms won't stop gangs. Even in a uniform, they can find other ways to express themselves. You can tell who they are by the way they carry themselves, their swagger, whether their belt hangs down or their pants sag. Uniforms are a consequence for the whole school when only some are gang members. It's almost unconstitutional because it denies you the right to express yourself. If uniforms are required, kids won't want to come to school. There will be retaliation. Kids will do more defacing, truancy will rise, and the dropout rate might come back up. People will transfer to other schools. Uniforms won't be less expensive because kids won't wear them after school. They're not going to walk around in dress pants. The administration is not enforcing the dress code we have now. I agree the code could be strengthened, but uniforms go too far.

* Patrick Hayes

Vice principal, St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura *

Being a private school, our situation is different. Traditionally in private schools and Catholic schools, the idea behind a uniform is to make it more difficult to tell financially what social group an individual comes from. We have found it to be a positive concept. Students know exactly what they have to wear when they get up. Parents don't feel their kids are competing financially with someone else over brand names. They are very much in favor of the uniforms. But we have found in the past few years that we are redefining a few things. We're moving more toward a dress code. Boys, who have had to wear solid color dress pants and shirts, can wear polo shirts. Girls can wear dress slacks and a different color blouse. We have free-dress days to allow the students more expression. We're having to focus on gang paraphernalia. We don't allow them to wear ball caps or team logo jackets. One thing we're looking at for next year is that some students are beginning to wear baggy pants. We don't want anybody to be perceived as a gang member and then targeted.

* William Seaver

Superintendent, Conejo Valley Unified School District *

Under our dress code, students need to wear clean and appropriate items, as far as good taste goes. For instance, no beer ads on T-shirts and no short shorts. When I was principal at Thousand Oaks High School in the early 1970s, we had a strict dress code. For example, boys couldn't wear T-shirts without a pocket, girls couldn't wear slacks and no one could wear shorts. We spent an inordinate amount of time enforcing rules that didn't do a great deal one way or the other to affect behavior. I believe gang attire can be controlled without requiring children to wear uniforms. We look at the dress code every year. There always are going to be kids trying things that are inappropriate. Most students adhere to good taste. The majority would not be in favor of uniforms. Kids feel good if they can pick out something they want to wear. Some parents would think uniforms would be good. To enforce a uniform requirement, I think it would take a lot of administrative time and energy that could be better devoted to other things.

* Jody Chambers

Mother of a seventh-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School in the Hueneme district *

Students definitely need some type of dress code to eliminate gang-related attire--maybe not a uniform, although I wouldn't be opposed to it. Teachers have enough to deal with given the language barriers. They shouldn't have to deal with who is wearing this or that. Cost-wise, I think it's more expensive to buy a pair of baggy jeans for $50 or $60 than regular pants. Schools have gotten away from education. They need to get a handle on the kids again. Kids don't have respect for people and property. I think if schools enforce a dress code, that would be sufficient. We had a dress code when we were going to school. In those days, they enforced it. Now they don't. The school needs to take a stand--enforce a code and make parents responsible. They should call parents at work and make them come get their children if they are dressed inappropriately. They could have parents sign something saying that they will do this. I don't think a uniform is necessarily an answer. It doesn't change the person inside. They are still going to be part of a gang.

* Susan Parks

Assistant superintendent of educational services, Simi Valley Unified School District *

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