by Jeannette Gano

“What am I going to wear today?” Many schools in the Bonita Unified School District have moved to eliminate this question from students’ daily routine.

Some elementary schools have implemented mandatory school dress codes while others have an optional dress policy that encourages school dress.

The question as to what to wear can be especially important to students at the middle school level. Teachers and administrators agree that, many times, students are influenced by issues of peer pressure and find it important to “fit in.”

Ramona Middle School took away the stress and distraction of dress when it implemented a mandatory school dress policy. Since the beginning of the year, teachers and administrators have seen an improvement in classroom attentiveness and unity.

Ramona administrators spent two years preparing for the implementation of the policy. They researched schools that enforced mandatory school dress, spoke to teachers in other districts who relayed positive feedback about its results, surveyed the Ramona school staff and finally presented the idea to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The PTA surveyed parents for more opinions. Having received support from staff, the PTA and 78 percent of parents who responded to the survey, the school sought guidance from the District office.

Lois Klein, assistant principal at Ramona who was involved in the dress policy implementation process, is aware of the fact that students today are faced with a variety of pressures, including the need to be accepted and to “fit in.”

“School dress codes relieve one stress from the students and set guidelines, boundaries, and security,” Klein says.

She also believes that if students know they are coming to a school that has guidelines and expectations, they will feel the need to live up those expectations.

Dress codes are not a solution to educational problems, she adds, but “a piece of the puzzle in giving students the best educational experience.”

In its own process of implementing the dress policy, Klein says administrators heard from both staff and parents asking for mandatory school dress. Students and parents played a key role in the decision-making process. A committee was formed and students and parents were given the opportunity to present samples of clothing they thought were reasonable.

In the end, when the committee agreed to an acceptable dress code, the theme for Ramona’s uniforms, “Pride in Appearance,” was chosen, and a fashion show to model the new styles was held at the beginning of the year.

Navy blue, black or khaki pants with white, navy, burgundy or hunter green shirts were modeled. Eighth graders also showed off the four-color striped shirts (comprised of the above colors) they had the option of wearing.

Aside from these combinations, students may also wear overalls. Girls are given the opportunity to wear skirts, skorts or jumpers with their uniform, as well. Because some students were opposed to the “tuck-in” policy, tucking in shirts was made an option to students.

Klein admits that, in the beginning, it was difficult to enforce the old policies. Many teachers, administrators, parents and students were frustrated with several unclarities concerning appropriate school attire. Because of such factors of miscommunication, many students spent much of their school time in the office for dress code violations.

Since then, the new dress policy has been made more clear to students. Now, the majority of Ramona students and teachers wear school dress. However, state law permits parents to sign a waiver and not agree to the dress policies.

With mandatory uniforms, students are able to concentrate on schoolwork rather than on fashion. And teachers will be able to better recognize students by who they are and not by what they are wearing.