Techniques Magazine Techniques February 2011 : Page 10

L EADERSHI p M AttERS The Student Dress Code Debate (Part II) Editor’s note: Schools and school districts face the challenge of monitoring students’ modes of attire in a bid to promote order, an environment conducive to learning, to ward off gangs, and more. School districts across the country have adopted dress codes governing the way students dress for school. The U.S. Department of Education reported that about one in five public schools, including early colleges, required students to wear uniforms during the 2007-2008 school year. This is the second of a two-part article by family and consumer sciences educators looking at the relationship between dress and behavior among high school students. The first part was featured last month. Implications and Court rulings What implications, then, does our re -search study have regarding the debate to require school dress codes or school uni -forms? It may depend on the school sys -tem’s reason for the policy. It is our view that there is not a significant relationship between the level of offensiveness in attire and a student’s behavioral problems at school, and the adoption of a dress code policy will not significantly impact school attendance or behavior. With regard to dress code policies, it is important to note that many court systems attempt to make a distinction between dress codes that govern freedom of expression and those that regulate message content. Weisenberger (2000) suggests that a balance test is often used to determine if a dress code appears to be unconstitutional. The balance test weighs several factors, including students’ rights, the rights of others, and the rights of educators. Many school systems advocate that dress codes are less restrictive than school uniform policies. For example, a school www.acteonline.org PHOTO by ISTOCk.COM By Melinda Swafford, Lee Ann Jolley and Leigh Southward LASt MONtH tHE AUtHORS OF tHIS ARtICLE WEIGHED IN ON tHE StUDENt dress code debate. We noted that while proponents of dress codes and school uniforms often attempt to link adolescents’ clothing choices to their behaviors, our small study (the results were highlighted in Techniques last month) indicated there was not a significant relationship between the level of offensiveness in attire and a student’s behavioral problems at school. These results support the research by Brunsma and Rockquemore (2001) that adolescent dress does not affect school behaviors. 10 Techniques Februar y 2011

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