Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oregon Trail School District Proposes Uniforms for Students

School uniforms have typically been imposed upon students who attend school in larger cities, usually with problems such as gangs, and severe behavioral issues, and are said to blur the lines between the rich and the fashionably underprivileged. So why is the small rural school district in Sandy and the foothills of Mt. Hood exploring the possibility of a uniform policy? That's a question many people are curious about in the past couple of weeks, and hopefully one that more parents and children get involved in. As a parent of children in the district, I am highly opposed to the idea of the small town schools enforcing a uniform policy, I just don't see that the school would benefit from the dress code. There are no gangs, (I grew up in Los Angeles area, so I'm no stranger to gang issues,) and the kids here pretty much just wear t-shirts and jeans. So it must not be the reason for the uniform discussions in the Oregon Trail district.

Anna Jordan, a 7th grader at Cedar Ridge Middle School has begun to take matters into her own hands. She was a student in one of the first school districts to wear uniforms in Long Beach Unified School District in southern California. She was part of a mass rebellion during her two years attending school in the district at Riley Elementary. Students were required to wear white polo shirts and blue pants or skirts, which didn't exactly blend the financial lines. The well cared for kids still looked preppy, the kids susceptible to dirt and grime still had stains on their white shirts that the generic brand laundry detergent didn't exactly whiten the whites, and the kids who's parents couldn't afford to buy a lot of extra uniforms literally wore the same clothes day after day. If the uniforms were intended to save parents money on clothing, I guess they never had to spend money on both uniforms and clothes for after school. Do you think kids really want to go anywhere after school if they are in their school uniforms? Believe me, they don't.

But as the days turned into weeks, weeks into months, the kids were less likely to wear their uniforms, each for their own personal reasons. Some did it because their uniforms were dirty, and no time to do any laundry, and some because they felt they could get away with it, and then there were those who flat out rebelled. At first they tried to blend, regular white t-shirts instead of polo shirts, then dark blue jeans instead of navy pants, and eventually the kids who really hated uniforms just refused to wear them. The teachers were supposed to send the kids to the office when they were out of uniform, who would then send them home or give them an extra uniforms to change into. This works well when there are only one or two children wearing street clothes, but this was different - the number of kids refusing to wear uniforms was growing - quickly. If too many kids were sent home, the attendance levels dropped, causing the school to loose money, so that was no longer an option. By the end of the year, all but a few children were dressed in their ever popular t-shirt and jeans.

So my personal opinion is this: If you are going to force the children to dress alike, make them wear dark colored t-shirts, (possibly even with no designs or wording,) and a pair of jeans. The kids would be dressed alike, but still comfortably, and the kids who feel that fashion is important would feel normal, and keep their sense of style. While the kids who were less likely to dress fashionably would still get to dress in their favorite pair of jeans and a comfortable t-shirt. This would still eliminate the possibility of gang-affiliated clothing, (granted the boys should have to wear jeans that didn't show off their Joe Boxers), and everyone would be happier with the look of the uniforms. And didn't anyone notice that the typical gang attire is a pair of dark blue Dickie's and a white t-shirt, which is a little too close to the school uniforms for me. But I guess everyone looking a little like a gangster is better than a select few being singled out, right? I'm not too sure that I've made any sense here, but I'll come back to the subject's late.
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