Do school uniforms help to provide less distractions? Do they improve attendance? Do they increase school pride? Over the past few decades, students, parents and administrators have debated on the issue of school uniforms.
For us students, school can be big part of our lives. It’s where we see our friends, learn, and make memories. In high schools that require uniform, students seem to always be complaining that uniforms don’t let students express themselves. However, for many students in Long Beach like me, it isn’t because they feel that wearing a uniform is boring. It’s because it is taking away from their class time.
Case in point: I was on my way to class one day when one of the school faculties stopped me for a uniform violation. I was wearing a white sheer shirt (with a white shirt underneath) but our guidelines require a solid white shirt. I was sent to on-campus suspension (OCS) to borrow an old used shirt and was sent to class with a one-hour detention. By the time I returned to class, I had missed the first half of my Spanish class.
As the school year began last year, sheer shirts became very popular and many young women were buying the trendy shirts off the racks. But only a few days after the beginning of the school year, all students were prohibited from wearing sheer shirts at Wilson High School. Since then, sheer shirts have been one of the few things students struggle through to match a proper school uniform standard. See sheer shirt example pictured to the right.
While uniforms can provide less distractions to students and less stress to parents, many students still work hard to add their “own style” to what they wear everyday. Many students enjoy wearing uniforms, but argue that slight dress code violations are often punished too harshly.
“Do students abuse uniforms in inappropriate ways? Yes!,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, a sophomore at Wilson High School. “Girls who wear really tight shorts, a shirt with buttons open in front, a low cut undershirt, or those who wear a sheer shirt with no undershirt under and you can see their skin and bra clearly under their see-through shirt, should definitely be sent to OCS immediately because they’re at school wearing inappropriate uniform.”
To hear students’ stories about uniform violations at Wilson and Millikan High Schools, click on the sound clip at the top of this story.
“For students who dress properly, but might not have the exact school colors or might wear a sheer shirt with appropriate undershirt under, should not be taken out of class,” said Vanessa Rodriguez said. “They should be punished before or after school or during lunch, to be fair to their learning time.”
According to Wilson principal Dr. Sandy Blazer, around 15 students go to on-campus suspension a day, for uniform violations.
“We give students plenty of warnings, we send letters that go out to parents and we have the uniform [guidelines] on our website, so it’s not like it’s a surprise,” Blazer said. “We try to be flexible and if students have issues, we provide free uniforms. It was the rules even before I was a principal here.”
Some students and community leaders agree that taking students out of class for school uniforms, might be counter-productive.
“There needs to be a more positive way for student discipline than pulling the student out of their classes and harming their class time,” said Justine Calma, program coordinator at Khmer Girls in Action, a local non-profit whose mission is to empower Southeast Asian girls and young women.
Calma believes that using restorative justice circles, an approach that focuses on the needs of the victim and the offenders and on talking about the core issues that affect the entire community. The offenders are encourage to repair the harm they did in various ways, such as apologizing or community service. The method has been gaining popularity in schools throughout the nation seeking alternatives to policies like suspension and expulsion.
“Some students wear clothes violating school uniform on purpose just to get out of class,” said Emma Salazar, a junior at Wilson. “Uniforms are important, but there are many ways to deal with students that wouldn’t affect their learning time.”
Everybody has different opinions about school uniforms. But in the end, schools should only be concerned about students’ safety and well-being. There needs to be a conversation around how a school addresses it’s points of view to students that help them understand why they are doing what they’re doing.
“I personally like uniforms– they’re unique and they usually save money for students,” said Jazmine Gonzalez, a sophomore at Wilson High. “But restricting uniforms and dress codes that affects the student’s learning time, that I’m against.”
For more information about school uniform policy in at LBUSD, click HERE.