An Introduction to the Dress Codes in Public Schools

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A lot of public schools today are making heinous decisions and these decisions could end up saving a school district. The decisions are about better dress codes. Public schools are banning certain flags, rap lyrics and even famous people who have changed the nation we love from there hallways all for the greater good. Schools are now even taking away sagging your pants which is a very popular trend amongst all races, to eliminate storing drugs and or weapons under their clothing.

Taking away short and skirts and tank tops from girls so they won’t cause a distraction in the classroom. After the entire classroom is not made to be a fashion show but an academically stable environment for the children to better enhance their abilities to learn.

Dress codes date back to the 1950’s once the 80’s hit, the dress codes began to fall off until the late 90’s came around disbanding gang related attire such as: bandannas, nonwhite shoe laces, attire representing professional sports teams, and certain colors.

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Hats, military apparel, combat-style boots, apparel and jewelry that could cause injury, tattoos, and beepers (Murphy, 1991; Kukay, 1992). At the beginning of 1997, 3% of public schools required school uniforms and by the end of 2000, 3% had increased to 21% (School Uniforms Timeline 2). At this time school uniforms became more frequent. In 2009-10, about 57% of public school principals reported that their school enforced a strict dress code, an increase from 47% in 1999. (U.S. Department of Education) Certain schools have a strict dress code by styles and color, while other districts are more laid back and just ban distracting apparel at school.

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In addition to these schools there are still schools that have chosen not to implement a dress code at all. Some schools in Texas are enforcing their students to tuck in their shirts, cover their tattoos and even refrain from any hair dye that wasn’t natural (Pink, Blue, and Dark Black). The codes are prohibiting boys from wearing earrings and even having facial hair (Cavazos 4). Other tedious rules include no oversized logos, no flip flops and other opened toed shoes or sideburns past the ear lobe (Cavazos 3). The majority of these rules that have been set at other schools around the country are being broken at school on the daily. Although most students would disapprove of a strict dress code, it could prove to be salubrious in the end. The many benefits of a stern dress code include helping eliminate teasing, creating unity among students, promoting less discrimination, and establishing a more positive environment for learning.

In some cases, the dress code can also be attributed to increased attendance, increased graduation rates, and less violence. A study in 2007 conducted by a Youngtown State University professor looked at six Ohio high schools after a dress code was administered. The study showed that after the dress code was implemented, graduations rates increased by 11 percent, while attendance rates also increased and suspension rates decreased (Darden 2).

Additional benefits of a dress code could include a lower cost for school clothes and an increase in safety. Safety would improve because it would be easier to spot an intruder if everyone is dressed similarly. The price of uniforms would be substantially less than the price of designer clothes that are considered popular with teenagers today (At Issue: School Uniforms 1). For example, district officials in California say that parents can buy a white shirt and pants for 25 dollars (Partner 4).

Also, charities help provide clothes, backpacks, and shoes to students that are unable to pay for the uniforms. Despite the number of benefits a dress code entails, some people are still against it. The main reason that some are opposed to the dress code is that they say it violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment states that ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (U.S. Constitution 1). This guarantees any citizen the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.

It is true that schools are not allowed to ban clothing or jewelry because they do not like it. However, if the school has evidence that the clothing or jewelry will cause a disruption, violate anyone else’s rights, or prove to be detrimental to the health and safety of students, then the school so allowed to ban the item (Haynes 2).

The 1998 case of Canady vs. Bossier Parish School Board determined whether school uniforms were constitutional or not. The Supreme Court ruled that the school had a right to implement uniforms if the following four conditions were met: “First, that the school board has the power to make such a policy; Second, that the policy promotes a substantial interest of the board; Third, that the board does not adopt the policy to censor student expression;

Fourth, that the policy’s incidental restrictions on student expression are not greater than necessary to promote the board’s interest.” (Sondheim-Kalkstein 4). This means that a dress code could be put into effect as long as the school board had the power to initiate a dress code, there is a clear reason to implement a dress code, and the dress code does not restrict any unnecessary clothing that would violate students’ freedom of expression. Although, freedom of expression is the main reason that people are opposed to a dress code, others have more complaints regarding the code. Parents and students are not only upset that their freedom of expression is allegedly being violated, but they believe that with this intrusion, the students can no longer be unique within their school. Along with these faults, they additionally argue that the uniforms have no effect on learning and violence.

Yes, some studies show no effect of the dress code, but the majority of studies show a significant difference in grades and disciplinary problems with these both improving after the implication of a dress code. For example, in 1996 after President Clinton’s State of the Union Address where he told schools “to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship, and if it mean that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require students to wear school uniforms.”, a Long Beach (California) school system implemented a dress code (Clinton in Portner 1).

Compared to the year before the uniforms were mandated, fights between students decreased by 51% and suspensions were reduced by 32% (Portner 1). People complain that the uniforms would cost more than the regular school clothes would clothes would cost too, although this has not been proven. Even if a dress code is brought into action, some student would rebel because they disagree with it, which would cause schools to take disciplinary action. If a school has a dress code in place, then the school will most likely have students who refuse to obey the standards that have been set. For those students who feel like they are above the rules there are consequences.

Of course different schools have different repercussions for the dress code violations, some being stricter than others. Some schools in Florida give students who repeatedly violate the dress code detention, and if they continue to break the rules, the students are suspended (Downs 2). A simple consequence of being out of uniform is just making the student do their work by their selves in an in school suspension room. An unintended consequence of putting a dress code in to effect is potential lawsuits from parents and students. A lawsuit would surround the school with bad publicity, and could prove to be an even bigger distraction than the actual clothes themselves.

With bad publicity, parents could begin moving their children out of the school, thereby negativity influencing future school funding. The odds of this are slim, however it is still possible. With the loss of the useless distractions, children’s grades will dramatically change for the better. This is due to the newly found focus that the uniforms will help us achieve. The member of fights we all witness each year should heavily drop now, also. Not only fights, but most disturbances that we come across should also vanish with the implementation of the dress code. Ultimately, everything involving our whole experience in school should get better. No longer would we deal with obnoxious distractions involving clothing and pointless fights that get us nowhere. They are the future, and a dress code is the path for success in life.

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An Introduction to the Dress Codes in Public Schools. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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