Collared students

As more schools require school uniforms, more parents are objecting, reports USA Today.

Parents Laura and Scott Bell filed suit over an Anderson, Ind., uniform plan that will begin when students return to school Aug. 20.

. . . The Anderson policy requires black, navy or khaki pants or skirts and a solid-color shirt with a collar.

“As a parent, we felt our rights were being violated,” says Laura Bell. They have five children, ages 5 to 17.

The Bells’ suit makes two claims: that the uniform requirement violates their children’s constitutional right of free expression and that it violates the guarantee of a free public education. The Bells would have to pay $641 for five sets of pants and shirts required by the policy, Laura Bell says.

The Bells’ suit was thrown out of court. The local teachers union and a local community foundation have donated $112,000 to buy shirts and pants or skirts for all students poor enough to qualify for a subsidized lunch. Donors say the outfit costs $15 at discount stores, which would mean the five Bell kids could have three sets of suitable clothing apiece for $225.

The cost issue is a non-starter. Even low-income parents have to clothe their children: It doesn’t cost that much more to buy a solid-color shirt with a collar. Uniforms tend to be just as cheap as conventional clothes and more convenient.

I think uniforms provide a modest educational benefit: Schools find it somewhat easier to create a sense of community and much easier to proscribe inappropriate T-shirt slogans, provocative clothing and gang styles. Kids don’t turn into drones because they’re all wearing polo shirts. Of course, collars don’t turn them into scholars either.

Nationwide, about one in four elementary schools and one in eight middle schools requires some form of uniform.

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