Effects of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Discipline Research Proposal

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School Uniforms

Much of the current literature available on the subject of school uniforms deals with how to implement, enforce and maintain a consistent policy throughout the school or district without running afoul of the legal requirements that must be considered when attempting to instill such a policy. Comprehension of the myriad of legal standards is imperative by the institution in order to prevent lawsuits as well as a number of other challenges to the policy.

Challenges can be expected but the Supreme Court has upheld most policies permitting schools the option of requiring students to wear uniforms. A recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, San Francisco states that "The district's uniform policies limit only one form of student expression (while leaving open many other channels for student communication)," and they are "consistent with the district's goals of creating a productive, distraction-free educational environment for its students" (Walsh, 2008, pg. 8).

This ruling implies that as long as a district allows for other forms of student expression, such as school newspaper, student councils etc., and that the district is striving to maintain a distraction-free environment, then requiring students to wear uniforms is acceptable.

In this ruling the court majority stated; "the school uniform policies were viewpoint- and content-neutral, and that...the policies passed muster as long as they furthered an important governmental interest unrelated to the suppression of free speech and had only incidental restrictions on protected speech" (Walsh, pg. 8).

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The court decided that Clark County (the defendant in the case) met the required standards because school officials had submitted affidavits stating that the uniform policy promoted safety, enhanced the educational environment and improved student achievement.

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Effects of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Discipline Assignment

An official from another school district across the country from Nevada's Clark County Schools reiterates that school uniforms enhance the educational environment. Linda Rondeau, assistant superintendent of educational services at Pittsburg Unified School District states that "uniforms promote school safety and enhance the learning environment, and diminish the clothing competition" (Boutelle. 2008, pg. 35).

Her statement presents an additional, and important, reason for requiring uniforms, and that is to alleviate the pressure felt by many students to 'fit in'. Peer pressure in the educational setting is a primary concern for many students and the effects of such pressure can many times lead to negative scenarios involving students, as well as for the parents and school administrators.

Many parents who decide to home-school their children cite the poor educational environment of the school setting as one of their primary purposes for teaching their children at home and a recent article states that "Most of the parents who home-school their children say that kids are able to focus solely on schoolwork because they are not distracted by Peer pressure, violence, sex -- even clothing competition" (Henderson, 2008, pg. 124).

Boutelle states that "In an era where some parents seem unwilling or unable to draw the "clothes" line with their children, where pop culture influences kids' clothing choices as never before, and school safety -- including gang violence -- is at the top of everyone's minds, school uniforms and dress codes can play a significant role. But what that role should be is open to interpretation and can be a source of frustration -- and skirmishes" (Boutelle, pg. 36).

The U.S. Department of Education published a "Manual on School Uniforms" in 1996 that acknowledged "the efficacy of school uniforms." Mr. Clinton also promoted school uniforms that same year in his State of the Union address. Many schools have used the manual in their efforts to implement uniform policies, but only after gaining the approval of a majority of the parents whose students are affected by such policies. However, it is not only American schools that have discovered the effectiveness of uniforms, but other countries have discovered it as well. A recent report on schools in Iraq states; "Classrooms are extremely crowded, and two students must share a single desk. Still, even though packed, the school is bright, cheerful and modern. The library is well-stocked and the support staff, friendly. Students, crisply dressed in uniforms, are welcoming" (Duncan, 2008, pg. 18).

The current literature offers guidance for educators in regards to uniform policies with such ideas as do not include jeans and a t-shirt as part of the ensemble, and pick a set uniform and enforce the requirements without discrimination.

One recent article suggests that; "Despite the communicative elements of attire, which enjoy First Amendment protection, student attire that is disruptive, unsanitary, lewd, vulgar, or inconsistent with the school's objectives can be curtailed. Schools would be wise to implement and disseminate clear policies that include examples of prohibited attire" (McCarthy, 2005, pg. 50).

Another consideration would be that there can, and some would argue that there should be, different requirements for each gender. Two relevant court rulings have "upheld dress codes that have different standards for male and female attire. For example, earring prohibitions applied only to male students have been found rationally related to the school's objective of inhibiting gang influences because earrings can be used to convey gang-related messages" (Barber v. Colorado Independent School District, 1995; Olesen v. Board of Education, 1987).

The ultimate goal of the proposed study is to determine whether a school uniform policy will improve student safety and academic achievement. Other studies have shown that mandatory school uniform policies have improved safety in the school significantly. In 1995, then President Clinton visited the Long Beach, California school district which was the first public school system in America to require uniforms. After only one year, there was a dramatic decline in "violence and discipline problems, as well as higher test scores" (Wilkins, 1999, pg. 19).

During his 1999 State of the Union speech Clinton stated; "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 uniforms."

Other studies have also shown that safety improved after the implementation of school uniform policies but very few studies have concentrated on the aspect of scholastic improvement along with safety. The proposed study will seek to do that. The study will have to consider other factors as well and the current literature spells out one of those factors in clear detail. That factor concerns the parents who fight either for, or against the implementation of a school uniform policy.

Evidence of such skirmishes are evident in the literature. One recent article articulates one mother's concern over the relinquishment of parental control to governmental authorities. She states that, "I question whether we are really doing our kids any favours by abdicating our authority to the school bureaucracy. Parents need to face head-on the challenges these uniforms try to cover over with grey flannel. If we have a problem with the downright sluttish dress of some of our daughters, tattoos, body piercing or outlandish hair colour, we should deal with these things ourselves" (Ackerman, 2005, pg. 57). This type of attitude, however, does not take into account the overall effects of school uniforms, instead it concentrates on one individual, one student who right to free speech might be affected. Many individuals rail against the conformity issues, while on the other hand some embrace such an environment.

This is evidenced by an article written by another mother who states; "I was appalled when a minister of education ordered that secondary-school pupils should be allowed to dress in a distinct fashion that was mandated by their religious belonging. What I experienced was, frankly, a deep sense of revulsion at this insertion of a wedge of difference among youth, at a period in their lives when they should be saved from the separatist imbecilities of the so-called adult world" (Soyinka, 2004, pg. 6). She went on to say, "My response was visceral and instinctive, and I realized that this move had savaged a deeply held social philosophy within me that I had always taken for granted" (Soyinka, pg.6).

Whether students, or their parents for that matter, are for or against the imposed standards will certainly be taken into consideration during the proposed study, and it will be interesting to ascertain whether those individuals will feel more positively or negatively towards the policy after it has been implemented. Negative or positive attitudes should have no effects on the outcome(s) of the study as it is proposed, though certain scenarios will have an indirect effect on how the study is conducted.

An additional consideration to the school uniform policy might be the possibility of parents having the option of 'opting out' of the policy due to religious or other reasons. Texas has offered that opportunity where "under Texas law, school districts can require students to wear uniforms, but parents can object on philosophical or religious grounds" (Marks, 1998, pg. 30).

All of the above stated considerations will be factored into the proposed study and it is hoped that the findings of the study will be conclusive enough to add to the already… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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