by Polly Esther
“How you dress so shall you be perceived. And as you are perceived, so shall you be treated." People use the freedom of choosing what to wear as a way to be creative and express themselves. Some people feel that dress codes suppress their individuality. No matter how much of students’ creativity is thought to be taken away by school dress codes, strict schools dress codes really are beneficial to students. Public school dress codes should be more strict to enforce safety, respect, and a positive learning environment.
To start with, many schools have had problems with students sneaking weapons into school, but dress codes ensure a safer situation for students. Besides guns, some girls seem to make themselves a target of bodily assault. Many acts of physical abuse have been reported to have been caused by a girl’s clothing. While everyone is responsible for their own actions, enticing clothing does not help the abusers’ temptation. With a policy that students have to wear modest clothes, the rate of physical abuse could go down. Different schools are located in areas with different crime rates. Some schools with dress codes require student’s belt lines to be showing at all times for fear of them hiding guns (Wilder and Key). The number of school shootings could be reduced if more schools adopt this policy. In some places, overall crime rates have even gone down. A report from the New York Police Department in 2007 said that after beginning a uniform policy in 2000, the overall crime rate was down 14.7%. If implementing a dress code creates a safer situation for students, why not enforce a strict one?
Not only are dress codes keeping students safe, they also can establish an attitude of respect between students, their peers, and their teachers. Because of the fact that some “in” styles are considered inappropriate, dress codes reduce the amount of pressure from peers and one's self to keep up with the ever-changing fads. With a strictly enforced dress code in public schools, many “in” styles would be outlawed. Not only do dress codes help peers respect each other, they also can help build positive relationships between students and their teachers. A psychologist and professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University asked students about they way clothing can have an impact on others. Many responded that they wished they had a dress code. Some even said that teachers treated them differently based on what they were wearing. Students learn better when they have good relationships with their teachers, and dress codes can help build those relationships. After conducting a survey of several students, the date showed that 50% agreed with the following statement: “Even though I want to wear whatever I want, I understand that some things I wear could make other uncomfortable.” The majority also said that dress codes were a way to establish structure and respect in their school. In one school, a fifteen-year-old girl got in trouble for wearing shorts that did not comply with her school’s dress code. She complained, “‘I feel bad because it's my body ... and there's no reason for the school to be telling me that I have to cover it up.’” While it is true that each person should love themselves, including their body, this does not mean that people have a right to show off their body in inappropriate ways. Just because a student feels comfortable with what they are wearing, that does not mean they are not making others feels uncomfortable. School should be a place where students want to be, not a place that makes them uncomfortable.
Another part of students comfort is linked to a positive learning environment, which can be established by a strict dress code. There are enough distractions in school is it is: friends, cell phones, and bullying; no one needs to add the distraction of clothes that draw attention to people and their bodies. An article on the pros and cons of school dress codes explains:
Choosing what to wear on a daily can be a struggle especially if a student knows that her peers wear branded clothes and accessories. Imposing a strict policy on what students should wear can motivate them to focus more on their lessons instead on how they look and what to wear every day. Although this policy does not necessarily include wearing school uniforms, regulating the clothes worn in school can prevent distracting a student from concentrating on his or her studies.
Junior high and high school are difficult to endure for many different reasons. One main reason is peer pressure, and deciding what to wear. Some peer pressure gets so bad that it becomes bullying, which is also a challenge for students to experience. By all students wearing clothes following similar standards, bullying could be lessened. (“6 Advantages”). Many bullies use verbal abuse to deprive others of their self-confidence. Some kids are teased for shopping at thrift stores instead of buying brand new, popular clothes. Since some of the “in” clothes don’t comply with dress code rules, no one will be wearing them. Bullies pick on kids who are different, but if everyone dressed similarly, bullying could diminish. Not only can dress codes reduce the amount of bullying, they can also prepare students for the future. A sense of order prepares students for the workplace. Many students will be in situations at work where there are strict rules. Strict dress codes establish uniformity in school, preparing students for future situations at work.
Whether students are at work or at school, in our world today, inappropriate clothes seem to be more and more acceptable. This is especially true for girls. Many girls feels targeted by dress codes, as many of the rules are directed only toward them, but is it any wonder why? Girls’ clothes that are being sold in clothes are generally more revealing than boys’ clothing. This does not mean that all boys’ clothing is completely appropriate. Still, many shorts for girls are extremely short, tank tops can be found everywhere, as well as low-cut, tight, and cropped tops. People who create dress codes aren’t necessarily trying to target girls, but girls’ clothes that are sold in the majority of popular stores. However, it’s not just the students that find fault with the dress codes. Some parents point out that clothes following the rules of strict dress codes are very expensive. Depending on where they live, that could be true. Yet after a survey of several students, only one of them said that clothes obeying their schools’ rules on clothing were expensive and hard to find. Besides the fact the fact that this complaint only stands true for some people, it is not the schools’ job to monitor prices of clothes at popular stores. Most superintendents did not go to business school. In addition to opposition due to expensive clothing, several students protest dress codes because the feel that if they can’t wear whatever they want, they have no creativity or expression. Yet students who really want to be creative can still find a way to express themselves with appropriate clothing.
Our world is developing. Danger and immodesty are taking over. What can we do to stop it? Something like implementing a dress code may seem too simple, and \while it can’t fix all of the problems of this modern era, it can surely help. No one likes hearing about school shootings. No one likes to feel uncomfortable. And no one wants to be bullied. School dress codes can lessen all things mentioned above. Safety, respect, and positive atmospheres are important, now more than ever. Dress codes can change our schools for the better.