Letting Kids Be Kids: Some Schools Relaxing Dress Codes

Has the school uniform gone the way of home economics and shop class? Maybe not quite. . .but it seems that more and more schools across the United States are loosening the reins when it comes to dress codes. Is it always a good idea, Education Insider asks, to allow kids to dress in the fashion of the day? Can it lead to total chaos?

By Harrison Howe


When Schools Accept the Acceptable

Sneakers or shoes? Leggings or khakis? Shirts out or tucked in?

These are the sorts of questions being addressed by school officials and school boards across the country as a growing number of districts, most that now require some sort of uniform or adhere to a strict dress code, are wrestling with the idea of placing fashion into the hands of the students.

In some cases the changes may have started with a bending of the rules: for instance, a boy showing up in cargo shorts here, a girl in a tighter-fitting polo shirt there. And quietly, some schools began to accept the changes. As one board member in Richmond County, Georgia recently told the local News 12: 'It's revising to be more in tune as to what the current styles are and still come in the framework of safety, neatness and decency.'

A Kinder, Gentler Student Body?

In 1996, two years after the public school district in Long Beach, California, became one of the first to require school uniforms, President Clinton urged other schools to follow suit. Clinton claimed that uniforms could 'reduce violence, reduce truancy, reduce disorder and increase learning.'

But all that may not be the case. At Lubbock High School in Texas, for instance, a relaxed dress code was adopted in September 2010. Prepared for the worst, officials were pleasantly surprised. 'It has worked out just fine,' Lynn Akin, principal of Coronado High School, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal at the time. 'There has been no increase in any of the areas we adjusted. If anything, the atmosphere has been calmer.' And personnel at Lincoln Middle School in Indianapolis, which recently loosened its dress code policy, have noticed less class interruptions and that 'the kids are much happier' since the change.

So, will this trend continue? Perhaps, but if Education Department statistics for the 2009-10 school year are any indication we haven't seen the last of regulation pants or tucked-in shirts: nearly 19% of public schools require a uniform, and more than 50% still enforce a dress code.

Schools may be relaxing dress codes, but read how some feel that high schools might be relaxing the difficulty of advanced classes.

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