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The History Of School Uniforms In The United States

1415 words - 6 pages

The history of school uniforms in the United States public schools begins with small underprivileged school of Cherry Hill Elementary in Maryland and the domino effect that happened soon after in the years after. The popularity of school uniforms can greatly be credited to the Long Beach, California study and President Bill Clinton’s speech on the topic. At first, school uniforms were only for the private or Catholic private schools however the school uniform trend spread to other public schools to adopt the “preppy look” and success. This has now set new standard for the United States school system. A brief history of school uniforms will give a significant insight on the growing ...view middle of the document...

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In 1994, the Long Beach, California Unified School District was the first district to create a district wide uniform policy. This program was meant to solve low attendance, discipline problems, gang violence, and sexual assault. After a year of uniforms, the overall crime rate in the school system was down by ninety percent. Assault was down by eighty percent, vandalism by seventy percent, and suspension by ninety percent. This prompted other districts to follow including Los Angeles, San Diego, and even New York.
President Bill Clinton caught word of the new trend of school uniforms on January 23, 1996 prepared the State of the Union Address at the United States Capitol where he addressed the subject. In this speech he, “challenge all our schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship. And if it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms”. President Clinton called for the children of the nation to evaluate themselves on who they are and not what they look like on the exterior. He acknowledged Long Beach public schools for wearing uniforms and even visited the students. The New York Times reported on the President’s speech saying he is “putting discipline and learning back into our schools”. Interestingly enough, President Clinton was first introduced to the idea of mandatory school uniforms from the First Lady. The New York Times reported that this was in no way mandatory for all states to adopt and this would be up to the individual school districts. From this speech he announced a manual on school uniforms be published by the Education Department which would be available for any school that decides to enforce the policy.
The Manual on School Uniforms was published in 1996 in response to accounts of violence in American schools. This was an eight-part manual discussing topics of religious expression, financial help, safety programs, and parents’ involvement. This manual also highlighted policies on the models of Long Beach schools and Baltimore, Maryland’s Cherry Hill Elementary. The manual pushes for parental support of the policy even by giving input on the design of the uniform. Their encouragement will reflect on the student’s attitude regarding the new rules. The policy also accommodates for students whose religious believes would be burdened by the uniform policy. Student should refrain from wearing expressive items such as political buttons. It is up to the individual schools to determine if there will be an optional or mandatory policy for every student. Some schools may even develop a program to supply uniforms for the student’s families who cannot afford it. According to the manual, “Uniforms by themselves cannot solve all of the problems of school discipline, but they can be one positive contributing factor to discipline and safety Working with parents, teachers,...

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