One-time Varsity shortstop Michael Guerrero LHS ’15 can easily recall the day his coach stopped practice to punish him in front of his teammates, asking, “‘What would you do if we had a game today, and they called me to tell me you weren’t in uniform?” After being forced to run all practice, Guerrero was brought down to the Junior Varsity team simply because he failed to wear his uniform to class as mandated by Lawrence High School’s dress code.
Uniforms are no longer strictly the attire of private school students. Since 2012, 19 percent of public schools in the United States have adopted a uniform policy. When Lawrence High School’s new, $10-million campus was built in 2007, the administration enacted and enforced a new dress code. Each student must wear a collared shirt, khaki pants and black shoes in compliance with the policy, which was instituted to stop trespassers from entering the school, a reaction to gang violence in Lawrence.
The student body and faculty at LHS, however, have clashing opinions on the strict school policy regarding dress codes.
Melissa Martin, a counselor for the college-prep program “Gear Up” at LHS, said that the dress code provides more than just security for the LHS.
“The value of having the policy is that we always know where students are supposed to be: it eliminates the hassle of speaking with students about inappropriate clothing and it allows students to not worry about what they’re wearing,” said Martin.
“The benefits may outweigh the time lost [while enforcing the uniform] when we think about safety and the notion of students being where they are supposed to be at all times. The message is safety,” she continued.
Some students, including Semi Javier LHS ’14, believe that the dress code helps create a conducive learning environment. “[The uniform] sets a tone because when everyone dresses professionally, we want to act professionally,” said Javier.
Brian Bates, the Acting Assistant Principal of the Humanities and Leadership Development (HLD) School at LHS, believes that experience has proven the value of uniforms in their community.
“It is definitely important to be in uniform. We can see what happens when they’re not. When we have dress-down days like jean days and spirit days, the quality of behavior overall drops,” said Bates.
Many in the LHS community, however, feel that the enforcement of the policy is disruptive.
“If you add up all the time used on uniform enforcement, it might outweigh all the benefits,” said Eric Allshouse, Instructor in Visual Arts at LHS.
“It removes some individuality from the classroom, and it also takes away self-expression. It can affect our relationships with students in a negative way because you constantly have to monitor and enforce, and the students react negatively every single time [you enforce the rule],” he continued.
If a student refuses to get into uniform after being approached by a faculty member, the student must leave class and is put into in-house, or suspension, for the day.
“They take students out of class to waste time, basically taking away our education,” said Carlos Ortiz LHS ’14.
Julie Nguyen LHS ’14 added, “I don’t think the uniform is that big of a deal for them to be disrupting my class time.”
“It’s a waste of time to stress over a shirt,” said Javier.
Many students find it absurd to be taken out for the whole day, missing class simply because they refuse to take off their hoodie. Hooded sweatshirts are not allowed, largely because of the security risk of not being able to see someone’s face in person or on the many security cameras around the school.
“I don’t like taking kids out of class for uniform. No teacher here likes to say get in uniform, but it’s campus-wide policy that has to be in place,” said Bates.
The dress code at LHS is a complex issue that currently divides the students, faculty and administration of LHS. A vice to some and a virtue to others, the uniform policy at LHS is not going away anytime soon.