Philadelphia Schools Adopt Uniforms

Actor Donald Faison speaks during an interview with the Associated Press on the set of the television series "Scrubs," Monday, Aug. 21, 2006, in Los Angeles.
Philadelphia is now the largest school district nationwide that requires a dress code in public schools.

Colette Cassidy of CBS Station KYW reports the school board has said all public school students must wear a uniform next year. The board says it wants to keep kids' minds off fashion and on their school work. The move comes in hopes of calming student rivalries and boosting grades.

Though the policy adopted Monday doesn't call for all students to wear Catholic school-style uniforms, it does require each school to decide how the youngsters should dress. Schools must begin that work immediately.

"It is certainly not the answer to academic achievement or school climate, but I think it can be one component to establishing respect for the school," said board member Christine James-Brown.

But during a school board meeting Monday, some parents and students were against the idea of implementing uniforms, saying it takes away from creativity.

"We need to be dealing with kids who cannot read or write," said Lisa Haver, who has two children at Central High School. "People who make suggestions like this are people who don't spend any time in school."

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Central High senior Adam Greenman said a uniform policy will just give students another way to get in trouble, and predicted widespread opposition to the dress code.

"If you implement this policy, students who once were considered good might now be considered discipline problems," Greenman said. "We were made to be different; we were not made to be uniform."

President Clinton has endorsed dress-code policies.

The Philadelphia school board looked into the issue last month at the request of Mayor John Street.

A study by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in 1998 found that 52 percent of principals requiring uniforms reported a boost in student performance.

At John L. Bernstein Public School 137 in New York, students began wearing crisp, new blue and white uniforms in September. Parents can write a note excusing their children from wearing uniforms. Otherwise, Principal May Beyda said, the school would face multiple lawsuits.

Other cities have uniform policies in Miami, 60 percent of public schools require uniforms. In Chicago, it's 80 percent. And in New York City, about half of the public elementary schools have a uniform policy.

James-Brown added schools would be pushed to look at clothes that are inexpensive and readily available. Punishment for failing to abide by a dress code would probably not be attached to the policy for the rest of the current schooyear, she said.

Discipline and other particulars -- such as provisions for students who can't wear the uniforms for religious reasons -- would be worked out by a committee of parents, students and educators.

Stefan Presser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said his organization might challenge Philadelphia's policy if it were to violate a student's rights.

"Aside from reading and writing, public schools are supposed to be teaching democracy," Presser said. "Uniforms are antithetical to teaching people how to make choices."

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