There are as many different dress codes for schools as there are schools out there, it seems. Some campuses have rigid uniforms, with only a few colors of shirts and pants available for their students to choose, and perhaps some skirt and short options for females. Other campuses have almost no restrictions, and so students are allowed to wear shorts, jeans, T-shirts and blouses of just about any type. Most schools fall somewhere in the middle, though, as such problems as immodesty and the choice of controversial slogans on garments have led to distractions in the classroom, and so administrators have had to respond with regulations to keep students learning. While it would be wonderful if parents and students could all agree on garments that are suitable for school, the fact that, in too many instances, they cannot maintain a workable standard of attire means that schools must step in and put dress codes in place.
Distractions in the classroom are the most important reason to have dress codes in schools. Because students are learning in middle and high school during the same phase in life when they are discovering their physical attraction to other students, it is important to keep distractions at a minimum. If a girl is wearing a camisole under a scoopneck top, several of the young men in the room may be too busy staring at that to pay attention to the lecture. Tops that show midriffs or lower torsos may just be too much of a distraction for learning to go on unimpeded. Distractions can also come from inflammatory slogans on garments, such as profanity, or even remarks about current events. For these reasons, administrators should have the right to limit the slogans that appear on student garments.
There are also socioeconomic reasons that can contribute to a need for dress codes. Adolescents tend to be very brand-conscious, and so there can be a great deal of jealousy coming from students who cannot afford the most popular brands of clothing. In schools that have a lot of socioeconomic diversity, this can hurt the self-esteem of those students who cannot afford certain brands, and in some of the rougher school environments, this can even lead to violence, as students will be threatened for their higher-end shoes or other garments. As a result, uniform dress codes are often initiated in these districts, so that the expensive brands do not appear on campuses.
Gang related activity can be another reason to have dress codes in schools. Oftentimes, gangs are associated with different colors, and so people who wear those colors to school can be associated with that sort of activity, and violence can break out between groups of people from the different gangs, simply on the basis of what they are wearing. In schools that have these sorts of problems, dress codes are often put into place that proscribe the wearing of those colors, whether it is on shirts, pants, or even shoelaces or hair ties, in many cases. Bandanas are almost always forbidden in schools that are fighting gang problems, because they are very popular with many gangs.
The bottom line is that, in a school environment, instruction and safety are more important than fashion. No matter what part of the country a school is located in, it is the job of that school’s administration to keep students learning – and safe. To that end, it is not only acceptable to institute a dress code that meets the needs of a campus, but it is unacceptable for a school’s administration to neglect that duty when it becomes necessary.