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9th Circuit Upholds School Uniform Policy


A federal appeals court today upheld a school district's mandatory school uniform policy in the face of a multi-pronged First Amendment challenge.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled 2-1 to uphold the uniform policy of the Clark County, Nev., school district, which includes Las Vegas.

"In a case of first impression in this circuit, we ... largely conclude that public school mandatory dress policies survive constitutional scrutiny," said the majority opinion by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins in Jacobs v. Clark County School District.

The case involves a 2003 policy that set a basic dress code for all schools and then allowed individual schools to establish more stringent school uniform policies when parents returned surveys supporting the idea. A typical school uniform policy required khaki pants and solid-color polo shirts or other shirts with no messages except a school logo.

The policy was challenged on behalf of several students, including those who were forbidden from wearing religious messages as well as those who generally objected to having to wear a uniform.

The 9th Circuit majority said the school uniform policies were viewpoint- and content-neutral, and under a standard of intermediate scrutiny under the First Amendment, the policies further government interests such as promoting safety and enhancing the school environment.

The majority also cites with approval the Manual on School Uniforms put out by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996, under President Clinton. That manual appears to be archived on the department's Web site.

Writing in dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas said the majority had failed to properly apply the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Tinker v. Des Moines School District, the 1969 case upholding the right of students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War as long as school was not substantially disrupted.

Noting that the uniform policies prohibit "all messages on clothing, except for messages that support the school," Judge Thomas added: "Confining messages to pro-government content cannot be said to be viewpoint- or content-neutral."


I think most criminal attorneys would agree, school is vital for keeping kids on the straight and narrow, and whatever schools have to do to improve grades, keep kids in school and send them to college should be done. Some people challenge constitutionality, but those same people often lock kids up who later dropped out of school and became criminals.

If attaining freedom were easily accomplished, American ideals would not be so significant in European history and the broader sweep of Western civilization - not so significant in what has become now World civilization. If Americans are so ready to lay down their freedoms, imagine other populations who have not been indoctrinated to believe that freedom is a basic right of everyone. To take that fundamental stake as basic, and let all restrictions come as exceptions to the basic rule of freedom, that represents taking a stake in the American ideals that might be conceivable to a student growing up in the public school systems in Iowa during the 1950's and 1960's.

But now that I see that the American citizenry are apparently willing to let an imperial executive branch set stunningly corrupt precidents with impunity, I am not so sure I can continue to promote the faith that the people only need be presented with the real facts in order tht they will meet any national crisis. They certainly have the facts, yet they do next to nothing about it.

Those who believe that American salvation will issue from classrooms more similar to Pacific Rim factory modalities than anything else that comes readily to mind, they perhaps long for the days of Sparta. More likely is simply a regression to the mean, and we are being presented a portrait of our own basic stuff - the kind of stuff that brought forward in any justification of governance. The kind of stuff that Americans forged our Constitution to protect us from.

There is some kind of cusp between the far reaches of the Right, and the far reaches of the Left. Along that cusp we find all kinds of interesting experiments in human social behavior.

How different are the old-fashioned American ideals. Those who feel them instinctively in their depths must not assume that such is a norm of human social psychological behaviors. Those tend toward polarities between command and subservience. American ideals therefore only survive if we keep the flame alive. If the current trend continues, that flame of truth will not be an allowable symbol on school uniforms, I fear.

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