Techniques Magazine Techniques January 2011 : Page 11

system’s decision to enforce a school dress code or require school uniforms. Linking Attire to Behavior Proponents of school dress codes and school uniforms often attempt to link adolescents’ clothing choices to student behaviors. Since adolescents communi-cate values, self-expression and validate themselves through clothing, it is reason-able to assume that values can be related to behavior. An adolescent’s clothing choices are often a reflection of his or her abilities, personal qualities or perfor-mance. Joseph, (1986) as cited in Brunsma and Rocquemore (2001), asserted that clothing choices can be a sign that coveys a person’s values, beliefs and emotions. Thus, “If the clothing that adolescents wear can be considered a sign, then one can perceive their clothes as an expression of personal identity”—Brunsma and Roc -quemore. This assertion is validated by Arnold and Workman (2003), whose study indicted that “students who owned offen-sive T-shirts were more likely to engage in violent behavior, experience consequences of problem behavior, engage in substance abuse, and have a negative attitude to-ward school.” Opponents of adopting school dress codes or school uniforms often focus on the legal issues and effectiveness sur-rounding such policies. Brunsma and Rockquemore (2001) examined the data from two large databases—“The 1998 National Educational Longitudinal Study” and the 1998 “Early Childhood Longitudinal Study”—to empirically test the relationship between adolescents’ attire, specifically school uniforms, and behavior. Their findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance abuse, behavioral problems, school safety, school attendance, or aca-demic achievement. FACS Educators Conduct Survey As family and consumer sciences teachers, we became curious about the conflicting data regarding adolescent clothing and behaviors and set out to determine if we could find a correlation between what family and consumer sciences students find offensive in clothing choices, and their attendance and behavior in school. Sixty-six students from two rural high schools from a southeastern state were surveyed in a family and consumer sci-ences class by viewing photographs of T-shirts with various logos, slogans and pictures. (Each student was given a letter of consent that had to be signed by a parent or guardian and returned to the school in order to participate.) Respondents answered questions re-garding level of offensiveness and whether or not they would wear the T-shirt in the photograph. They rated the level of offensiveness using a Likert Scale of 1-5. Demographics and information pertain-ing to the number of times they violated the school dress code or were in in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension were also gathered. Data were analyzed through logistics regression (multiple regression) and ANOVA to determine if there was a relationship between their perceptions of offensive T-shirts and their behavior. Ninety percent of the respondents were female. Twenty-two percent were high school freshman, 41 percent were sopho-mores, 20 percent juniors, and 16 percent were seniors. Only 23 percent indicated that they had violated the school dress code, with 7.4 percent for inappropriate size violation and 4.4 percent for vulgar attire violation. In addition, 22 percent had indicated they had been in in-school suspension. Only three percent had been in out-of-school suspension. However, 63.2 percent of the students had been absent from school three times or fewer. The photograph of the T-shirt with the slogan “I pee on toilet seats” had a mean rating of 3.8, which was the highest mean for level of offensiveness and a 22.1 percent very offensive rating. The T-shirts with the slogans “Got Jesus?” and “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, Luke 3:22,” received the lowest mean of 1.0 on level of offensiveness, 86.8 percent and 83.8 percent respectively. The majority of the respondents indicated they would wear only a few of the T-shirts to school, with friends, or with family. The results of this small study indicat-ed there was not a significant relationship between level of offensiveness and behav-ioral problems at school. The students who reported violating the school dress code or being in a type of school suspen-sion were no more likely to find a certain T-shirt offensive, and they also indicated they were no more likely to wear these T-shirts than those students who responded with no violation of school policies and no type of school suspensions. There was no correlation between school attendance and perception of offensiveness. These results support the research by Brunsma and Rockquemore (2001) that adolescent dress does not affect school behaviors. Thus, our data from this study does not lend our support for arguments in favor of school dress codes or school uniforms. What implications, then, does this research study have regarding the debate of requiring school dress codes or school uniforms? We’ll look at that issue in the second part of the article, which will be in the February issue of Techniques . Melinda Swafford, Ph.D., is an associate professor in family and consumer sciences education, at Tennessee Technological University School of Human Ecology. She can be contacted at Lee Ann Jolley, Ph. D., CFCS, is an assistant professor in child development and family relations at Tennessee Technological University School of Human Ecology. She can be contacted at Leigh Southward, Ph.D., is an associate professor of apparel studies in the college of agricultural, food and life sciences at the University of Arkansas School of Human Sciences. She can be contacted at JANUAR Y 2011 Techniques 11

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