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ACLU: uniforms are for prisons, not schools

August 18, 2010

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a new uniform policy in Woonsocket schools. The group has filed a complaint with the state Department of Education alleging that the policy violates students’ right to free expression.

The uniform policy, which goes into effect in September, requires students to wear black or khaki pants, plain maroon or gray shirts, and black, brown or white shoes. Woonsocket is the first district in the state to impose a mandatory uniform policy, according to the ACLU.

Some charter schools in Rhode Island and some Providence schools already use uniforms. Central Falls school officials say they are considering a uniform policy as part of a high school turnaround plan. Proponents argue that uniforms help kids focus on schoolwork instead of fashion and reduce visible class differences between students.

The ACLU has a different opinion. The complaint filed on behalf of four parents and their children says the uniform requirement represents an added financial burden for families, who will have to buy new clothing to conform to the new regulations. The complaint also alleges that the dress code unduly restricts students’ freedom of speech.

“Uniforms may be useful in prison and the military,” said Steve Brown, Executive Director of the Rhode Island ACLU. “But they are totally out of place in our public schools.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cristian W Potter permalink
    August 19, 2010 3:22 pm

    This is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard. This is the problem with the ACLU. Uniforms are good for jobs too. There are not too many jobs that don’t require uniforms. I am willing to wager that if this court goes to trial the judge will likely be wearing a robe. Is his freedom expression being trampled upon too? Maybe the ACLU attorney should show up in jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt to make the point. Grow up.

  2. August 19, 2010 3:36 pm

    Christian,
    You make a valid point, and I’m sure Woonsocket school officials would agree with you. I spoke to Superintendent Bob Gerardi this morning, and he said the school board believes it has the authority to create a dress code. In addition, he says the policy allows students to apply for a waiver for health considerations, religious reasons or “appropriate free speech.”

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