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Students have voices, also - Talisha White

There are many ways to start a great essay, as I've learned in school. You can start with an anecdote or you could start by asking a question. Some people start with a broad statement known as the funnel method; others choose to start by defining words or using quotations.

I have learned and mastered all these methods without the use of school uniforms. School uniforms do not help you learn better, or behave more appropriately; they cannot stop you from being who you really are inside.

When the school board first started considering uniforms for high schoolers, they overlooked one very important, very large, portion of the community: the students themselves. Clayton County has a massive student body filled with great minds and opinions, but these leaders of tomorrow were not asked if they were for, or against, school uniforms. In my opinion, the wearer of the uniforms, the one it affects most, should have a say-so on the issue. Sadly, we did not.

The reasons for uniforms are most frequently noted as: creating uniformity, reducing gang activity, eliminating dress-code violations, reducing behavior problems, increasing pro-school attitudes, and increasing academic success. I have yet to understand how a piece of clothing that takes away a child's identity could possibly accomplish all it is said to.

The school board gave no better reason as to why 9th-12th graders should wear uniforms on its web site than "it proved to be successful in elementary and middle schools." Elementary and middle schools are not your target, therefore you cannot assume what has worked for them could possibly work for someone who is more mature, more developed, and more strong-minded.

"Requiring school uniforms is like cleaning and painting a deteriorating building," says David L. Brunsma, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It will grab a community's attention and grab students' attention; but it will fade away if the excitement about education isn't followed by some real reform acts."

The advantages of school uniforms can be disproved, such as they reduce gang activity and dress-code violations. Gangs are more than just a bunch of kids making bad decisions; they have their own rules, their own codes, their own way of life. Gangs are represented by solid colors and symbols. So in theory, would not insisting that a school's students all wear a specific color promote more gang violence?

Uniforms do not stop dress-code violations. There will always be a girl with her skirt too short and there will always be a boy with his shirt too long. That's just life. Uniforms are also costly, and for what reason? They will not protect you from getting into a fight and they will not protect you from getting picked on. If anything, uniforms are a hazard to students' health and safety. Take this scenario for example: The bell rings for lunch and a fight breaks out in the cafeteria. A student pulls a knife on another student. The SRO officer frantically pushes his way into the crowd, but it's too late, he got away. The officer turns to a nearby student and asks her what the culprit looks like. She replies he was a dark-toned boy wearing khaki pants and a white polo. With uniforms, it could be like finding a needle in a hay stack.

We are identified by who we are, and for most teens today, that is etched in stone by what we wear. Take that away and you take away our freedom. Those in high school are people who, in todays' times, have their own lives, own issues, own families. Some students even got a chance to vote in the most historic election in the world, but were overlooked when it came to a simple vote: Should we wear uniforms?

We were overlooked when it came to our opinion that uniforms are not suitable for hands-on classes, such as home economics or chemistry. Previously, there have been numerous times when a teacher has asked us to dress down for a lab. It's not a style issue, it's a safety issue.

The real reason behind school uniforms, in my opinion, is to "tidy-up" our tarnished and slaughtered reputation as a respectable school district. I'm not sure how that could be accomplished by forcing the students into a little gray box and calling it "reform."

Clothing is more than just pieces of fabric sewn together and draped across our bodies; it's what we live out our lives in.

Talisha White, of Ellenwood, is a 16-year-old junior at Morrow High School.