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Research Papers on the Opposition to Dress Code

Legitimizing the opposition to dress codes, it has argued that the implementation of dress codes poses: “a violation of students’ First Amendment rights, authoritarian regimentation, extraordinary expenditures on special clothing, an environmental tone that is harmful to education and learning, and a cosmetic solution to deeper societal problems”.  While it is true that dress codes have raised a myriad of issues, it seems that the most disconcerting has been the assessment of whether or not schools violate the First Amendment rights of students when they implement a dress code: “Students’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression, and whether it is being unduly abridged, is one of the fundamental issues raised”.

Opposition to Dress Code

Individuals opposed to the dress codes argue that measures to curb what children wear cub their ability to express themselves.  “They assert that how a person dresses is a kind of self-expression, and that the state—in the form of the public school system—cannot legally tell students what to wear”.  Further an attorney arguing against the implementation of a dress code in Philadelphia public schools asserts: “Public schools are supposed to be teaching democracy.  Uniforms are antithetical to teaching people how to make choices”.

The debate over First Amendment rights has become so exacerbated that a number of dress code cases have been heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The most notable of these cases to support the free expression through dress is Tinker v. Des Moines.  In this case the Court ruled that: “…students did not loose their constitutional rights when they entered the schoolhouse doors.  As a result, school officials could no longer discipline students’ symbolic expression of opinion unless the schools officials could show that there would be material interference with, or substantial disruption of, the school’s normal routine”.

Arguably, First Amendment rights are of utmost concern.  However, when it comes to dress codes, opponents have raised other notable arguments.  Many who oppose uniforms and dress codes:

  1. Believe that they are a superficial approach to the problems faced by American schools—a band-aid that is being offered when strong medicine is required. 
  2. School violence, academic failure, and other problems need to be approached more aggressively. 
  3. The social and economic factors that contribute to gang activity need to be addressed directly, and that failing students need extra tutoring—not a change of clothes.

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