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David Ross

Professor Wright

SP09 – ENG 101

12 May 2009

Students Must Conform, Wear Your Uniform

Wearing simple t-shirts underneath full length black trench coats, two seemingly ordinary

senior high school students calmly walked up the West Entrance steps of their high school,

opened the doors and disappeared into the infamy we call Columbine. Approximately 43 minutes

later, the two young men – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – “ended their rampage by committing

double suicide amongst the carnage of 10 other dead students in the school library” (Sheperd 6).

The bloody rampage at Columbine High School became an instant catalyst for parents,

educators, and law enforcement to try to find ways to protect the nation’s schools and reduce the

chances of reoccurrence in the future. One of the many incorrect rumors that came out of the

Columbine investigation was that the two killers were members of a school gang called the

trench coat mafia. Upon further investigation, it was revealed there were several groups on

campus that dressed alike to show their unity. This created the first knee-jerk solution to

eliminate the ability for those groups to dress alike and visually create fear or intimidation. The

use of school uniforms began to gain momentum as a solution. As a deterrent, “President Clinton

promoted greater use of school uniforms” and directed his administration to send a Manual on

School Uniforms to the nation's 16,000 school districts” (United 6). With so many options

available, the question must be asked: Are mandatory school uniforms a proven and effective

first line of defense against violence in schools?


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Let us compare several other ideas against mandatory uniforms and see if they are more

effective. “Many school districts across the nation have a dress code or uniform policy as a way

to deter school violence and bullying. However, there is a divided line between school officials,

parents, and students regarding this sensitive issue (Thompson 6). In 1999 it seemed everyone

had a proposed solution to reducing school violence, but very little data to support it. The Reason

Public Policy Institute found that “there is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet approach to school

violence prevention” (Volokh and Snell 6).

The United States Secret Service authored a study called “The Safe School Initiative”

using the same criteria they use to evaluate threats against the President of the United States.

Their goal was to hopefully identify common traits of all thirty-seven past school shooters and

create working profiles that would help prevent future school shootings. Suggestions from the

Secret Service included “using metal detectors, on site police presence, locker searches by police

dogs or administration, closed campuses, and restricted parking (United 6). Then report also

revealed surprisingly enough, only 27% of past shooters “socialized with fellow students who

were disliked by most mainstream students or were considered part of a ‘fringe’ group” (6).

Mandatory school uniforms was absent from the list.

Some law enforcement personnel are of the thought that parents should secure their

weapons at home and also take the additional step of rendering firearms ineffectual by the use of

trigger locks knowledge of where firearms are “hidden” The first rebellious feedback in regard to

mandatory uniforms came from the female population of the schools. They objected for many

reasons, least of all and probably unknown to them, was a bit of information in a report from The

United States Secret Service. While consolidating known facts about all previous school

shootings in hopes of creating a profile of future school shooters, the Secret Service discovered,
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“all of the incidents of targeted school violence examined in the Safe School Initiative were

committed by boys or young men” (6).

Females wanted to know the reason for taking away their right to wear what they wanted

to wear when all evidence pointed to the fact it was unlikely females would ever commit this

type of crime. A mandatory school uniform was seen as a sexist decision since females felt only

males should be subjected to this rule as all evidence pointed to the fact that males, not females,

were the target group associated with school violence.

Throughout the country, school administrators worked with school psychologists and the

results were several creative and effective ideas. The state of Colorado has a Safe2Tell

anonymous tip line that covers any potential threat to safety. The program also includes

anonymous and encrypted Web-tipping, says Susan Payne, special agent in charge of school

safety and homeland security for the state. In the past 4½ years, the line has prevented 28

planned school attacks, she says. In one incident, there were 33 weapons found. About two-thirds

of the calls come from kids, Payne says. "All of us have seen these unspeakable tragedies. I can't

think of one that could not have been prevented” (Colorado 6). This idea has proven to be much

more successful than mandatory school uniforms at preventing school violence.

Another effective program with set up to reduce school violence is The National

Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere, or SAVE. Their main focus is to

“educate students on the growing problem of school violence” (Swan 6). SAVE promotes non-

violence within the public and private school systems and community, as well as education about

the effects and consequences of violent acts. SAVE strives to focus attention to all forms of

violence, not just the cases of violence that result in death or injury. “In 1995, SAVE was

bestowed the President's Service Award (the nation's highest volunteer award) for the dedication
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and determination in keeping the message of non-violence known and keeping schools and

communities safe” (6). This type of non-invasive action has proven that open dialogues and

continued focus that violence in any form is unacceptable has had an effect on how peers at

school treat each other. Reductions in taunting, bullying, and harassment of individuals creates a

more stable atmosphere. This also is a much more effective tool that mandatory school uniforms.

The ideal solution some people think is the installation and use of stationary metal

detectors that students would have to pass through to enter the school. It seems a logical choice

since guns and knives are made of metal and detection would be ensured. There are specific

issues with this solution which are sometimes overlooked or not addressed as thoroughly as they

should be. The cost of the detector must include a budget for the payroll of the personnel needed

to operate the metal detectors, ongoing training, and maintenance and repair of older equipment.

“How much time will be required to get hundreds, and in many cases thousands, of

students screened through the metal detectors and into their first classes on time without

disrupting educational programs? Assuming a school decides to operate daily stationary metal

detectors at its main entranceway, how will all other doors at the school be secured and staffed to

prevent unauthorized entry during student arrival and processing through the main entrance

metal detectors? Will all ground-level windows be permanently secured at all times so no one

can pass a weapon through an open window to someone who already passed metal detector

screening and is in the building? Would doing so even be allowed by the local fire marshal?

The failure to staff and run a 24/7 metal detection program would create an opportunity

for persons to enter the school during non-detection operation times and store weapons in the

building” (Trump 6). I would have to say the installation of metal detectors is only feasible in
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high gang, high crime, and high violence neighborhoods. In that environment, it is certainly more

effective than the use of mandatory school uniforms.

As with most complex issues that we seek answers for, I have found there is no single

strategy, or for that matter even a combination of strategies that can provide 100% guarantee that

there will not be a shooting or other act of violence at a school. Good ideas have been

implemented that show great promise in helping reduce or prevent the possibility of future

school violence. School uniforms is not one of them. Mandatory school uniforms are not a

proven or effective first line of defense against violence in schools.

My son attends a public middle school in Lake Havasu City, AZ and he is required to

wear a school uniform. I do not feel that his wearing a school uniform contributes to a safer

environment at school - unless it is made of Kevlar.®


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Works Cited

Sheperd, Cyn. “4-20-99: a Columbine site.” 8 May 2009 < http://www.acolumbinesite.com/

index.html>

State of Colorado. Department of Public Safety. "Safe2Tell: Make a Call, Make a Difference."

Colorado Springs: Colorado Prevention Initiative for School Safety. 04 May 2009

<http://safe2tell.org/>.

Swan, Anna. "School Violence: The SAVE Program." Associated Content. 17 May 2006.

<http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/32610/

school_violence_the_save_program.html?cat=48>

Thompson, Dawn. “School Uniforms: Good or Bad?” Associated Content. 01 July 2007

<http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/291547/

school_uniforms_good_or_bad.html?cat=9>

Trump, Ken. "Metal Detectors and School Safety." National School Safety and Security

Services. 18 Jun 2008.

<http://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/school_metal_detectors.html>

United States. Department of Education. “Annual Report on School Safety.” Washington: US

Dept.of Education, 4 Oct. 1998 <http://www.ed.gov/pubs/AnnSchoolRept98index.html>

United States. United States Secret Service. “The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School

Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.”

Washington: US Secret Service and the United States Dept. of Education, May 2002

<http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac/ssi_final_report.pdf>

Volokh, Alexander., and Lisa Snell. “School Violence Prevention: Strategies to Keep Schools

Safe.” 6 Jan 1998. Reason Public Policy Institute.

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