Uniforms in JCPS Have Got to Go

Uniforms have been a staple of JCPS for years now. Though it’s been several years since I was a student in the JCPS system I still question why exactly, school uniforms, or rather, strict dress codes, are so very popular.

Of course, the argument for these dress codes rely heavily on an image of petty, brand-obsessed youth–a youth that, if allowed to dress freely, will allow pants to sag and budding breasts to pop, and will spend every moment discussing clothing rather than focusing on schoolwork. Did JCPS and other proponents of these dress codes draw their conclusions of the young from Hollywood’s high school-based films? Or do they simply not think very much of young people? You have to wonder.

For all the proponents fawning over the “equality” that the dress codes instill among student bodies, these dress codes are rather classist, and they don’t disguise the economical advantages some students have over others. Brand names can and do make polos and khakis, after all. For families with students in JCPS, they must now purchase two wardrobes for their youth–a school wardrobe and, well, a rest-of-the-time wardrobe. Economically disadvantaged families cannot afford this. Having a small amount of school-approved clothing means wearing the same over and over–and risking wealthier students noticing and causing the bullying the uniforms were supposed to prevent, and perhaps causing said bullying where it would not have existed before.

The myth of students obsessing over clothing is turned into a reality when uniforms are required–but that obsession is forced onto teachers and administrators instead. A chemistry teacher at my former high school, for instance,  was notoriously “strict” about the dress code–and I was unfortunate enough to have this teacher. Every other day, I attended an hour-and-a half-long class, and this teacher would spend the first twenty to thirty minutes scrutinizing students’ attire. Attire that had been acceptable to other teachers and administrators was abhorrent to her–she sent students out of class for undershirts being an unacceptable color, belts missing or the wrong color, shoes the wrong color, trousers having too many pockets…and on and on and on. After thirty minutes of this, and the class whittled down by anywhere from few to a third of the class, she would finally begin her lesson. She would, however, interrupt the lesson if a student’s shirt had come untucked during class. We could do nothing until that abominable shirt tail was hidden from sight. If a student objected to the interruption and  the over-rigorous policing, that student was kicked out of class. All that time was wasted. All over the county, this scene is being repeated. Is this a valuable use of time?

The strictness, of course, varies from school to school. Male, for instance, doesn’t much care what color your polo is. For others, it very much does. Shawnee allows its students to wear only three colors: khaki, white, and navy blue.

What do we gain from this? Nothing.

What does it cost? Families spending more money that increasingly doesn’t exist, teachers and administrators forced to become the fashion police, classroom time wasted, and more students being kicked out of class.

When our youth are dropping out, or graduating unprepared for higher education, when schools lack essential equipment and textbooks, when libraries are neglected and its selection sparse, should we really be worrying about the color of a teenager’s undershirt? Why the Hades are you looking, anyway?