Alaska editorial: School dress codes are a good idea

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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The idea of imposing dress codes in public schools has been garnering enough support for it to be the topic of a bill filed before the state Legislature.

Sen. Bettye Davis of Anchorage filed the bill earlier this month. It isn't a surprise that such a bill comes out of Anchorage, where the school district deals with gang-like attire and a large student population.

The bill directs school districts to adopt "reasonable" dress codes requiring uniforms for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It also gives districts authority to prohibit clothing that officials believe interferes with the health and safety of teachers and/or other students.

The dress code would be authorized only under the following conditions: parents and students would be given six months' notice before its implementation; economically disadvantaged students and their parents would receive economic assistance in buying uniforms; parents could exclude their children from the dress code and they and their students would not be subjected to penalties or discrimination as a result. The proposed law wouldn't prevent students involved in scouting or similar organizations from wearing their uniforms to school on days on which those bodies meet.

The proposed law also states that districts "may" adopt a reasonable dress code for grades nine through 12.

A dress code in school districts has its benefits. It would get elementary and junior high students used to it, so that imposing one in the high school wouldn't be an abrupt change. The younger students would expect to wear uniforms in school.

But it is at high school that the law likely is most directed. That's where most of what might be called inappropriate school attire appears. That's where districts such as Anchorage's see gang-like dress. Some of that shows up in smaller districts, too.

The state provides a paid education for all students. It's mandated.

Unfortunately, some of them choose to drop out. But as long as the state is paying for the education, it only seems right that it and school districts can dictate what students should wear in class.

For parents, uniforms are likely to save considerably on their children's clothing bill. Uniforms can be purchased in bulk by districts, and they won't be as expensive as the brand-name fashion statements even some of the youngest students like to wear. Those types of clothing can be reserved for after school and weekends, but there won't be as much need for them with students being out of uniform fewer hours of the week.

Studies show that students' attire affects how they behave in school. School-appropriate clothing mostly likely would result in better academic performance than other types of attire, and doing the best job possible in school is the ultimate goal.

This is a state-, school- and parent-friendly bill.

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