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Student Safety and School Uniforms

March 5, 1996
By: Brian Higgins
State Capital Bureau

In an effort to stop on-campus violence, school officials are looking at various measures. Recently, President Clinton has voiced his support of a policy for public school uniforms. Although the state of Missouri does not have a policy requiring school uniforms, it hasn't stopped students and parents from expressing their opinions. KBIA's Brian Higgins has more from Jefferson City.

OutCue: SOC

Schools in Missouri and across the country are paying more attention to student safety. For many city schools, measures to increase student safety are nothing new. Schools in St. Louis have gone as far as using metal detectors to find concealed weapons. Another measure, supported by President Clinton, is a policy for public school uniforms. In Missouri, this measure is nothing new. While no laws have ever been passed, as far back as 1993, the state legislation has discussed policies for school uniforms. However there are mixed feelings among the students and parents who would directly be affected by such a policy.

One St. Louis middle school student, Jacquiline Madison, says the clothes students wear often lead to problems.

Actuality:Jacquiline Madison
RunTime: 08 sec
OutCue: all they do."
Contents: Jacquiline Madison says that students are arguing over brand name clothes.

Brand name clothes are not the only concern. On some campuses the concern is centered on the clothes favored by gangs; jackets and hats of sports teams. Another student from St. Louis, Leslie Gosejohn (go-shun), says that uniforms would be easier and safer.

Actuality:Leslie Gosejohn
RunTime: 10 sec
OutCue: are fighting over."
Contents: Leslie Gosejohn says that uniform would be easier than finding school clothes and that students fight over what they are wearing.

Two students who offer a unique perspective are Sergey Medvetsky and Olga Sibirskaya (Si-burska). Sergey and Olga are foreign exchange students from Belaruse, a former republic of the Soviet Union. In Belaruse school uniforms are required but, while attending school in Missouri Sergey and Olga can wear what they want. Sergey says school uniforms are a good idea.

Actuality:Sergey Medvetsky
RunTime: 25 sec
OutCue: responsibility at school."
Contents: Sergey says that in Belaruse students are required to wear uniforms but most do not like the idea. He says that he likes uniforms because they are cheaper than casual clothes and they teach you responsibility.

However Sergey's classmate, Olga Sibirskaya (Si-burska), does not like wearing a school uniform because uniforms take away her individuality.

Actuality:Olga Sibirskaya
RunTime: 15 sec
OutCue: I didn't like it."
Contents: Olga says that by wearing a uniform she was unable to express herself and she did not like that.

Students such as Olga are concerned that uniforms will take away freedom of expression through dress. Sandy Davidson, a communications law professor at the University of Missouri, says there are already some restrictions on student dress.

Actuality:Sandy Davidson
RunTime: 22 sec
OutCue: kind of thing."
Contents: Sandy Davidson says that students do in fact express themselves through dress. However, a student can be banned from wearing t-shirts with obscene messages.

While some students have concerns over their freedom of expression, some parents also have mixed feelings over a policy of school uniforms. Deanna Simpkins, the mother of an elementary school girl, sees both positives and negatives to the idea of school uniforms.

Actuality:Deanna Simpkins
RunTime: 25 sec
OutCue: right now."
Contents: Deanna says uniforms would be good on one hand because crime could be reduced but uniforms could be bad because children may lose their individuality.

However, if a policy for school uniforms comes into conflict with a students' right to expression, students will be the likely losers. Communication law professor Sandy Davidson says that if it comes down to it, courts will rule for student safety over student's expression.

Actuality:Sandy Davidson
RunTime: 27 sec
OutCue: we won't allow that."
Contents: Sandy Davidson says that schools have an obligation to student safety and if that means uniforms are needed, schools would be right in enforcing a policy for uniforms.

Davidson also says that some school districts may be allowed to have uniforms while others may not. She says that districts with a history of on-campus violence will have more flexibility in enforcing a policy for school uniforms. If student safety in Missouri becomes more of a concern, public school uniforms may become more than just an idea. Reporting from the Capitol, I'm Brian Higgins.