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There is something comforting about school children and teenagers dressed in pleats and plaid. Maybe it is a reminder of past times, or conjures up thoughts of order and safety. Whatever the reason, school uniforms are getting a lot of ?wear? these days, yet remain an unproven deterrent to school violence. No long-term, formal studies have been done with regards to the effectiveness of school uniforms, but many schools have kept their own informal statistics, such as the Long Beach School District. These statistics offered by Long Beach are often most cited as a proven deterrent to school violence, after adopting a mandatory uniform policy in 1994. According to Richard Van Der Laan, school crime has dropped over seventy-five percent, while attendance has reached an all-time high. One question we must ask ourselves is this, ?Is it the uniforms, or the induction of them that is solving the problem?? Maybe it is the school and parents showing some ?back-bone? which is affecting the students, not the clothing.
If you are a skeptic, get in line. There is no concrete evidence proving uniforms alone cause such dramatic reductions in crime, but rather, these policies appear to act as nothing more that a ?Band-Aid? that fails to address the real causes of youth violence. Although this violence, including sexual assault, can be linked to ?free-dress?, it is not dependent upon it, and points to deeper, more significant problems within the youth community. Violence is not learned by clothing, but rather through unfit home situations, negative friendships, and even popular culture (including emulation of television, media, music, and movies). A simple change in dress will not abolish these problems, but merely hide them for a time.
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Every individual looks different; everyone knows that. This fact is especially apparent in high schools across North America. Students? bodies are constantly changing and developing and students often try to wear clothing which is flattering and, or comfortable. It would be embarrassing to wear the same outfit as everyone else and look bad in it, and the shape or design of a standard uniform may not be right for every individual. Uniforms also prevent students from expressing creativity and using their own minds in making decisions on how to dress. Self-expression is a big part of maturing. All students are trying to find their identity and discover who they will become. If they cannot show who they are or find who they want to be, then a vital part of their school experience will be denied.
So what is left to do? No one will ever be completely happy with any decision adopted, but we must continue to try and determine the best approach. Standard uniforms are unproven deterrents to student violence; are a ?Band-Aid? to cover up the real problems faced by children and teens; and they violate students' right of self-expression, depriving them of their search for identity. From these conclusions, we must understand that though some gain is found through uniformity, a lot is lost. The most satisfying compromise between uniforms and free dress would be dress codes, which would alleviate some tensions (especially with regards to sexual assault), but would allow students to retain their clothing as a creative and expressive outlet.