With all due respect to the fine men and women who serve on the Rapides Parish School Board,  I have always believed that the school uniform policy is, in a word, stupid.

When I was a senior in high school, I wrote (and The Town Talk published) a 2,500 word missive on the subject of uniforms. Hilariously, instead of crediting me as the author, the paper credited Lamar Alexander, the Republican politician from Tennessee who believes in eliminating the Department of Education. I thought the paper’s mistake was awesomely ironic.

Regardless, the policy is still stupid. It was implemented because of a misbegotten, ignorant fear– fear of non-existent gangs wielding their non-existent supremacy by dressing in non-existing gang colors. It was implemented, believe it or not, because of the reaction against the massacre at Columbine High School, which had nothing to do with uniforms and everything to do with alienation. And it was implemented because a handful of elected officials, completely removed from the real lives of students, believed they could dictate culture by controlling the dress code.

If our leaders on the School Board intend to lead, then they should immediately eliminate the school uniform code. Let students express themselves. What is the harm?

We know one thing for certain: In the nine years since the Rapides Parish School Board implemented a uniform dress policy, nothing has substantially changed. It’s an ineffectual policy that hurts more than it helps.

Take, for instance, the case of the Obama jacket.

Apparently, Columbus Goodman, the Principal of Pineville Junior High and an African-American, somehow allowed himself to believe that a student wearing a jacket with an over-sized picture of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama, violated the dress code. The Town Talk reports on the School Board’s policy:

According to the policy, “Printing, emblems and/or insignia that discredit the country or its institutions, that are disruptive or vulgar, or whose interpretations by school officials are considered to be disruptive, that are disruptive or vulgar or to have double meaning will not be worn.”

Again, with all due respect to the School Board, how is this even an issue? Why is this frontpage news? More importantly, how could any principal, regardless of their race or their personal political philosophy, believe that the image of the President-elect is either disruptive or vulgar?

Ironically, the policy specifically provides that students cannot wear anything that discredits “the country or its institutions,” yet Mr. Goodman would have us believe that a jacket recognizing and honoring the institution of the American Presidency is somehow vulgar and disruptive.

Weak, weak, weak.

Yet there is a simple solution: Eliminate the ridiculously backwards uniform policy and allow students to express their beliefs. Otherwise, the School Board will forever be engrossed in arguments about political expressions.

Restore a student’s freedom of expression. Grow up.

PS: As a side note, I want to make it clear that I have nothing to praise or commend about Mr. John Allen, a School Board member, who ostensibly (and according to the paper) took a similar stance on this issue. Although I respect his opinion, I do not respect or understand his prerogative. Last year, during an event with Senator Landrieu, I introduced myself to Mr. Allen, and after doing so, he immediately remarked, “Lamar White is dead.” My father, with whom I share the same name, died eight years ago, and there is absolutely no way anyone could mistake me for my father. Mr. Allen, who serves on the same board of which my grandfather was once President, is either ignorant or, worse, feigns ignorance.

7 thoughts

  1. Although I often find you to be patronizing and condescending, I happen to agree with you on the Obama jacket issue. This election was not only an historical moment for America as a whole it was especially so for the African American community. (Having worked the elections this year as a pole watcher for a local candidate in a predominately black district, I saw first hand the pride of the local African American community in voting for Mr. Obama.) So if someone spent thier money (hard earned or not) for a jacket to commemorate this event then by all means they shouldl be able to wear it. As for the uniform policy, I really believe you miss some key advantages of children wearing a school uniform. Being the father of a 12 and 6 year old it takes all the worry out of choosing what the kids wear to school. Press a weeks worth of uniforms and lay them out for the kids to wear. Also, there is a tremendous cost benefit to wearing uniforms versus other clothes. I promise looking back at high school I wish we would have had uniforms. Then I would not have had to spend my summer job money on school clothes. As for Mr. Allen, anyone having experienced the man years ago at ASH knows he’s several bricks short of a full load. Not sure who it reflects worse on, him or his constituents that keep electing him.

    Have a Good Day!

    Dan “A Passionate Young Man”

  2. Dan, thanks, I guess.

    I regret if I have come across as patronizing or condescending. I’m a stickler about being honest about my opinions and sometimes, I know, it comes across as combative.

    I disagree with you about the uniform policy. To me, it’s primarily a freedom of expression issue, and although I can appreciate the convenience argument, it doesn’t compensate for the fundamental problem of the policy– which creates situations such as the Obama jacket scandal.

    By the way, come to think of it, Mr. Allen did tell me that he had taught my father at ASH. Perhaps this contributed to his confusion. Either way, he was very awkward and, unfortunately, offensive.

  3. Now that I work for the school system, I would have to say that one of the only things I would not like about banishing the uniform entirely, is that I would more than likely be subjected to displays of underwear due to saggy bottom pants. Without a uniform policy, educators and principals have a huge headache with kids coming to school in all sorts of inappropriate attire. I think this would be a non-issue if parents or kids had any sense of decorum or had some simple common sense regarding what is NOT appropriate to wear. Unfortunately, we have people who cannot follow rules and do not understand why a racial slur on a t-shirt is not appropriate for their child to wear to elementary school. Just another view.

    Another reason I like uniforms is because bullies cannot single someone out for wearing old fashioned or out of style clothing because a person cannot afford better. When you wear a uniform, everyone is on a level playing field. I also find the ones who buck the uniform policy have discipline and authority problems because they want to do whatever THEY want to do. I find when children are in uniforms, they behave better. When they are in their own clothing, they act like they are at home slouching on the couch. I think anyone who would like a better understanding of why the uniform policy was put in place, should get a job within the school system. It would shed light on the how and why. Like I said, just another view…one within the school system.

  4. Also, I would further like to say that I do not agree with not allowing that child to wear his Obama jacket. He SHOULD be allowed to wear it! With pride!

  5. As an international educator who actively teaches at all levels all around the world I can say with some certainty that how students dress, wear their hair, or 90% of the other crap the school board seems concerned with have NOTHING to do with how they learn and with how conducive a school environment is to learning.

    This policy was a failure before it was ever implemented.

    Get rid of the uniform policy. Quit wasting time and money on something as superficial as this. In fact get rid of the dress code altogether.

    Try teaching, training teacher, paying teachers who actually do bother to get certified (since so few are).

    How sad is it that we have 2 school in the within the city of Alexandria that are SO bad that they are looking forward to being taken over by the state?

    We elected these people to do a job. We have the hold them accountable.

    School Board: quit trying to create Stepford children and teach the ones we have!

    Drop the dress code.

    Teach.

  6. Related story from high school. When i went to northwood, i got suspended for refusing to take off my jacket which was against school policy. the jacket? an army issue camoflauge jacket. fun stuff.

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