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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 23, 1996


SUBJECT: Manual on School Uniforms

Quality education is critical to America's future and the future of our children and families. We cannot educate our children, however, in schools where weapons, gang violence, and drugs threaten their safety. We must do everything possible to ensure that schools provide a safe and secure environment where the values of discipline, hard work and study, responsibility, and respect can thrive and be passed on to our children. Most schools are safe. But we must have zero tolerance for threats to safety in our schools. It is time to make every school the safest place in its community. Parents should be able to send their children to learn free of fear. All of our schools should be permitted to focus on their original purpose: education.

Many local school districts have made school uniforms an important part of an overall program to improve school safety and discipline. Too often, we learn that students resort to violence and theft simply to obtain designer clothes or fancy sneakers. Too often, we learn that clothing items worn at school, bearing special colors or insignias, are used to identify gang membership or instill fear among students and teachers alike.

If student uniforms can help deter school violence, promote discipline, and foster a better learning environment, then we should offer our strong support to the schools and parents that try them. We should applaud parents, teachers, and school leaders when they take courageous action to make our schools safe and free of gangs, drugs, and violence.

The Long Beach, California, school district recently found that after students started wearing uniforms, there was a substantial decrease in student drug cases, sex offenses, assault and battery cases, and fights. The learning environment improved as teachers could focus more on education and less on discipline. Many other schools -- in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle, and St. Louis -- have also adopted mandatory or voluntary school uniform policies with promising results.

I thus asked you, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop information about how local school districts have made uniforms part of their school safety and discipline programs. The Department of Education, with input from the Department of Justice, has now developed a new "Manual on School Uniforms," which sets forth the benefits of school uniforms; provides a road map for establishing a school uniform policy for schools interested in school uniforms; and describes various model uniform programs from a number of school districts across the Nation.

Because maintaining safe and disciplined schools is an urgent priority in every local community, I today direct you promptly to distribute the Manual on School Uniforms to each of the Nation's 16,000 public school districts. I also direct you to provide copies of the Manual to appropriate organizations representing parents, teachers, and school administrators, and to make it available to interested members of the public.

School uniform programs are just one of the many initiatives undertaken by local school officials and parents to improve school safety and discipline. Other steps -- such as truancy reduction programs, student-athlete drug testing, drug and gang prevention initiatives, zero tolerance for weapons, assisting teachers in addressing discipline problems, conflict resolution programs, and character education initiatives -- have also been used to improve the education of our children. The Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Justice, should continue to develop guidance and information about these and other initiatives so that local organizations, families, and educators throughout the Nation have the tools available to make our schools safe, drug-free, and crime-free.


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