Tuesday December 01st 2020

Issues Brief

School Uniforms/Dress Codes and School Safety Issues Brief #1
June, 1999

The Issue:
The recent acts of violence in public schools have placed an emphasis on the responsibility of school officials and school boards to provide safe learning environments for students. Many methods have been suggested, including the use of school uniforms or dress codes. The resurgence of interest in school uniforms or dress codes dates back to the 1980's when public attention focused on students' wearing of designer clothing, punk styles, and T-shirts with certain types of messages (Kaiser, 1997, p.378). Concerns were expressed then about the use of clothing to: foster competitiveness; symbolize gang membership; or characterize lifestyles condoning drugs, alcohol, disrespect for authority, and even violence (Elliott, 1984).

Current concerns have focused on the relationship of clothing to gang violence and associated symbolism. The use of trench coats by the students in the Littleton, CO, tragedy to conceal weapons has emphasized a very tangible consideration of clothing worn to school. But it also illustrates a less tangible consideration, i.e., the use of clothing to create a group identity that will affect the manner in which group members interact with each other as well as the outside world. In Littleton, the outside world was other members of the student body, and the interaction was violent.

The purpose of this issue brief is to:
  • summarize research on the general relationship of clothing to behavior which suggests the use of school uniforms
  • summarize findings on the current use of school uniforms/dress codes in Kentucky schools
  • summarize research on the relationship of clothing to student behavior in schools, especially with regard to safety
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