Protesting a dress code by shunning the uniform
What better way to protest a school’s uniform than refusing to wear it? That’s what two students at an elementary school in Nevada did in 2011. Known only as the Fruddens, their parents objected to uniforms as a sign of conformity and allowed their children to wear what they wanted to school. They chose to wear a soccer uniform and one wore the school’s shirt turned inside out so as to hide the school’s logo and slogan “Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
The students were threatened with disciplinary action and the parents brought the issue to court. In January, 2012, the court dismissed the case* stating that Tinker didn’t apply, that no evidence of disruption was presented and that the school was within its rights to enforce the dress code. An appeal is expected to be taken to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court ruled on a similar challenge to another Nevada school uniform policy in 2008.**
In that case, the students wanted to wear religious messages on their uniforms. The school prohibited such and the court upheld the school’s strict dress code. The court ruled that the policy did not violate a student’s free speech, free excercise of expression or due process rights. The judge wrote that students had alternative ways to express themselves at school including the school newspaper, conversation and clubs.
On the other hand, another federal court ruled for the student in Arkansas who, in protest of the school’s dress code, wore a black armband over his school uniform.*** Wearing armbands did violate the dress code that called for a uniform, but the court ruled the student’s right to political speech did not cause any disruption at school and therefore was protected speech.
Do you see a distinction in these cases? Do you think the Fruddens will win their appeal and be allowed to wear whatever they wish to school, even though the school has a uniform code? What are some of the reasons dress codes exist in both public and private schools? Does the government have a say in what kids wear to school – why or why not?
*Frudden v. Pilling, 2012 WestLaw 292474 (D.Nev.) 2012.
**Jacobs v. Clark County School District, 526 F.3d 419 (9 Cir. (Nev) 2008).
***Lowry v. Watson Chapel School District, 540 F.3d 752 (8 Cir. (Arkansas) 2008).