Issue: Dress Codes and Gangs

Compiled by Kirsten Lee Swartz, Times community correspondent

Area schools have tried to limit gang activity on their campuses by banning some of the clothes most often associated with gangs. Some bans go as far asprohibiting all types of hats and baggy pants. Are such clothing bans effective? And are they difficult to enforce?

H. J. Green: Principal, Polytechnic High , Long Beach I think it’s effective in the sense that it keeps some of the more obvious gang-related confrontations from taking place. We’ve found that, by enforcing the no-gang attire, it helps in the sense that some of the more hard-core people decide they’re not going to be a part of it, and they go somewhere else. We’re pretty vigilant about it. We have people out on the grounds when the students come in the morning. I think nine times out of 10 we catch it before they enter the school grounds. Because of the dress code, we can almost immediately tell if a non-student is on campus. Usually those kinds of people are there for the wrong reasons, and if we see somebody coming on campus with some type of hat on or Raiders shirts we know immediately they don’t belong here. It makes it easier for us to supervise our own student body.

Kathleen Lippman: Teacher, Santa Fe High , Santa Fe Springs Generally, I think it’s a good idea. I have often wondered, if someone wanted to push the issue, whether or not it would be found as a violation of their rights. Ever since the Supreme Court said neo-Nazis can march, I thought, if neo-Nazis can spew their hatred with the protection of the Bill of Rights, it wouldn’t surprise me if a kid could show up completely in gang attire with that protection. It also seems that if one thing is banned, kids find another way to show their allegiance to a particular group, whether it be a haircut or an earring or tied shoelaces. With the usual human inventiveness, there’s always a way around it. If I see a kid wearing a hat or a headband, I’ll tell him to take it off. But in terms of the rest of their clothing, I’ve got to tell you the truth: I don’t pay any attention. I have 35 kids coming in, and I’m trying to teach a class.


Allison Spence: Student, California High , Whittier When I was a freshman, the dress code was the basic one--no tube tops, no bathing suit tops--that stuff that you’ve heard forever and ever. Now for this coming year, there are all these dress code rules. We’re not allowed to wear Pendleton flannel shirts and open-toed shoes and cutoffs of any kind and any types of Raiders things, and we can’t wear any hats except our school’s. I have no idea why they said no open-toed shoes. You know how Birkenstocks are the craze right now? Everybody’s like: ‘Are we going to get to wear those?’ It’s dumb. Whoever makes the rules, I think it makes them feel good because it makes them think they’re cracking down on gangs. But they’re not in school with us. They don’t know what’s going on. They sit in an office all day and make up rules, and they’re not effective. Gangs will find other things and other colors and other ways. It’s not making gangs go away.

Patricia Clemons: Teacher, Enterprise Middle School , Compton It’s my responsibility to look out for that, but the students pretty much adhere to the dress codes on their own. I don’t see a lot of gang attire. You know it when you see it. Baggy is baggy. If you see a person with pants on that look like they belong to their father, you know obviously that’s baggy. I know there are styles where the pants are loose-fitting or relaxed, as they call it. But it looks different. I don’t spend a lot of time policing them. I’m not constantly having to send someone home. We don’t have a lot of those instances. The students pretty much follow the rules because they know it’s for their own safety. I think it’s effective. The only thing they seem to be really concerned with is wearing shorts. They want to wear shorts, and we don’t want them here with really short shorts. They should dress appropriately for school and for learning. They’re not going to the beach.