I am very curious to hear what happens Thursday at the first of several planned public forums on Standardized School Attire. I covered the school board as they started researching the issue last spring, and again this fall. We've gotten a number of responses here on the web site to our recent news stories and our poll on the topic.
I hope that these public meetings can generate some real dialogoue on the issues. As with any issue, there are people on either side who have carefully-considered, thoughtful viewpoints on the topic, and there are people on either side who are unreasonable and whose arguments hold water like a colander.
I can say, based on the field trips I went on with the school board last spring and this fall, that the educators we met were sold on the benefits of SSA. They all seem to sincerely believe that it has made an impact on overall school attitude in their schools. Critics of SSA say that the scientific evidence doesn't show any correlation between SSA and school performance or discipline problems. In some cases, such as Chattanooga Central High School, which was visited last May, SSA was implemented at the same time as other reforms, and so if there is an improvement in student behavior it's hard to quantify how much of that is really due to SSA and how much of it is due to something else.
I was greatly amused by the commenter who proclaimed that our brave soldiers fought and died for the right of students to wear whatever they wanted. I doubt that most veterans would say they had that particular right in mind when they signed up for duty -- especially since the service members themselves are expected to wear uniforms. I couldn't resist responding to the woman who said that the conformity required by SSA would squelch students' creativity and might thereby prevent some great novel from being written or some great scientific discovery from being made. I had to point out that a number of fine novels have been written by authors who attended prep schools and who had a much stricter dress code than anything proposed under SSA.
But, as I wrote in an opinion column for the newspaper, I think the school board should take a hard look at the specific rules and regulations being proposed. If there's not a good reason for a particular rule or a particular aspect of SSA, it needs to be left out. For example, the fact that someone thinks a smaller number of allowed colors looks better than a larger number isn't a good reason, unless you also have some indication that a smaller number of colors has an impact on achieving the goals of SSA.
It's a complex issue, and the school board members need to hear from people on both sides of it, as well as from people in the middle.