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School Uniforms Not a Solution to Gang Problems on Campus

* I want to take issue with your editorial stance, “Much Too Uniform?” (Feb. 22), in which you, reluctantly, approve of school uniforms in public schools.

This topic has become very popular of late, and I find myself wondering if I’m the last bastion in favor of freedom and self-expression. Am I the only baby boomer who fought against school dress codes in the ‘60s?

Of course, today’s proponents of school uniforms pretend that a rigid dress code will protect their children from gang violence. This is a fantasy. My son’s district already has strict rules regarding appropriate school attire! If the current rules do not protect our children from gang influence, how will a uniform do it?

Are we so naive that we will, willingly, fool ourselves into believing that the gangbangers won’t come up with other methods of determining gang affiliation? How about yellow socks? What about a green pencil in their pockets? Hang a bandanna from their belts?

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Not only will kids be creative enough to dodge the dress code, but how can parents fall into the pit that uniforms will be less expensive? Your editorial hinted at the possibility of “donations” to provide low-income children with school uniforms. I’ll buy the theory that children need to be well fed to perform well in school; and I’ll allow my tax dollars to provide breakfast and lunch for low-income children. But “donations” will soon translate into providing low-income children, through tax dollars, with uniforms for school. And, what happens to the family that changes school districts, mid-term, or as you suggested, simply changes schools? A new uniform? I can’t see how this would decrease my school-dress expenses.

In my view, this entire dialogue is designed to transfer parental responsibility to the school system.

The point is that too many parents do not see their children go off to school--or return. They don’t attend PTA meetings; they don’t participate in parent-teacher conferences; they want the public school system to be their built-in baby-sitter. Parents who care about the welfare of their children can provide their own “neutral coat of arms” to protect them from clothing that “might otherwise make them targets.”

I think that the school districts should be invested with the power to enforce the rules that they already have regarding appropriate school attire, and parents should look farther than the end of their noses for a solution to gang violence.

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LYNN HARKINS

Anaheim

* It appears that the idea of wearing uniforms to school is coming full circle.

Around the turn of the century, girls who could afford it vied with each other in the matter of dressing stylishly. School officials decided that this was unfair to the girls who could not afford fancy clothes; it would make them feel inferior, and this was undemocratic. So, in Glendale High, at least during the 1920s, girls wore middy blouses, with navy blue ties and navy blue pleated skirts.

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By the time I went to high school in the early 1940s, the dress code had been relaxed to simply requiring skirt and blouse (or sweater set) and oxfords, usually saddle shoes. This allowed some self-expression while preventing a dress war. We did not feel put upon at all. Then, in the heyday of the civil rights movement, teen-agers started complaining that dress codes violated their civil rights, and school officials caved in.

Now, dress codes are again being considered, although the current reason, gang violence, is more pressing than the reason for instituting dress codes in the early part of this century.

Basically, the matter comes down to which is more important: the civil right of youngsters to be safe in school or the civil right of teen-agers, who have not yet learned self-discipline, to do what they want with no regard for the safety, rights or welfare of others.

JUANITA MATASSA

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Santa Ana


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