UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 99-31318
CANADY Plaintiffs-Appellants
VERSUS
BOSSIER PARISH SCHOOL BOARD Defendant-Appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court
For the Western District of Louisiana
January 23, 2001


Background:

In 1997 Bossier Parish School implemented a new uniform dress code for all students. The school board believed that upon implementing a uniform dress code they could improve test scores and create a more safe and healthy environment. In 1998 parents filed suit against the Bossier Parish School Board. The parents claimed the new policy violated their children’s First Amendment rights of free speech and the children’s ability to express themselves as individuals. Another strong point for parents was the economic burden put onto them in order to provide their children with the proper uniform.

Decision and Rationale:

First, a district court rejected the lawsuit, so the parents then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 3-0 decision in favor of the Bossier Parish School Board stating that the school’s desire to change the dress code and implementing a uniform policy was constitutionally justified. The court came upon this decision because the school provided statistics from other school systems that had implemented a uniform code and shown an increase in test scores and a decrease in behavioral problems. The precedence set by this case is whether a mandatory school uniform policy violates students’ First Amendment rights.

Impact on Teaching:

We as teacher’s are always trying to create individuality in our students and trying to give them a voice to express themselves. Uniforms completely take that away. Schools believe that it will create a more cohesive environment eliminating economic differences, but does it really? A rich student will have five different uniforms for all five days of the week, while a poor student may have to wear the same uniform all week. Uniforms do increase test courses and decrease behavioral problems, but is that really worth the implications of creating the same student over and over without individually expressive and opinionated students? A part of adolescents is learning what you do like and what you don’t like through your peers in school and being exposed to different ideas of expression. Teacher’s need to be aware that if we take away students’ expression on the outside then we need to give students a more predominate and expressive voice from the inside. Let them speak aloud of likes and dislikes or how they feel on current events or previous events they are learning about in school. May classrooms a more round table environment where all opinions matter.

Question:
Is it a constitutional right for school systems to implement a uniform dress code? True or False

By Mariah Kerlick-Cherry




UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 99-31318
Diana Canady, Billy Jones, Pamela Jones, Thomas Attaway, Earl Hodgkins, Elizabeth Fisher, Carol Ayers, Diane Jones, Tony Neese, Della McCrory, Veronica Walsh, Michael Walsh, Patricia Vidal, David Turner, Lori Wright, Tim Broderick, Ken Henderson, Julie Christen, Diane Allen, Carol Wilhelm, Becky Emerson, Tonja Davis, Kira Higginbotham, Brian Shoebridge, Ed Walker, Nancy Kirkpatrick, Wilton Leritte, Karen Butterfield, Janice Harville, Marian Tyson, Joni Hassle, Mary Vance, Ken Foster, Bruce Dominque, Terry Monroe, Theresa Harmon, Cindy McCarl, Darly McCarl, Vicki Allen, Bonnie Monroe, All Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Bossier Parish School Board, Defendant-Appellee.

Summary:

This case brings into light the legality of imposing school uniforms into the public school systems. In 1997 the Bossier Parish School System, of Bossier Parish Louisiana imposed a modest dress code on its students, informing the parents in a letter. This letter explained the required clothing style requirements and where they could be purchased including many discount chain stores. The school implemented this policy to reduce school violence and bring up standard test scores. The Plaintiffs filed suit and the subsequent appealed under two constitutional issues the 1st amendment, the 14th amendment. Under the 1st amendment the plaintiffs claimed the uniforms restricted their ability to express various aspects of themselves using clothing, such as religious affiliation, social group status or political views. Under the 14th amendment the plaintiffs claimed they are denied “Liberty” because they are not able to wear what they want.

Decision:

The court decided with the school system saying that certain forms of expressive conduct and speech are sheltered under the first amendment but many are not absolute. Even though students are not allowed to wear what they want during the school day they are allowed to this privilege after school hours. They are also allowed to express themselves in other methods during the school day. The court decided the school system can regulate these freedoms allowing them to foster a safe and secure learning environment. On the issue of the 14th amendment the court decided that requiring parents to buy uniforms from the same stores they buy all of the rest of their cloths from, and the fact that many organizations give them to underprivileged children, is not placing any undue hardship or be any more expensive than street cloths would be. The biggest fact is that the school board proved that the new measures both improved test scores and reduced violence in school.

Impact:

The school board has an obligation to all of the students who attend school, that the place they are provided with to learn is a safe and secure environment in which they can learn. One of the measures educators have in their bag of tricks now is uniforms. Having come from a military background I am a big supporter of uniforms it gives everybody the sense of being equal. This decision allows schools to improve the safety and security of the school without having to spend large amounts of money, it actually happens with the parents help.

Test Question:

How many constitutional questions were answered with the decision of this case?

Two.

Matthew Hotard