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.