Peer pressure to wear the latest expensive fashions has gotten so intense, school board member Linda Cropp (Ward 4) says, that perhaps all D.C. schoolchildren should be required to wear uniforms.
If Cropp likes uniforms so much, she should wear them, says Adrian Green, an eighth grader at Francis Junior High School in Foggy Bottom.
"People should have freedom to wear what they want to," Adrian said.
But Cropp and other District school board members say it may be time to restrict that freedom, either with uniforms or a dress code that limits the kinds of clothes students may wear. Cropp said yesterday that she has asked the board to consider putting a clothing policy in place by next fall, to ease peer pressure, build school pride and save parents money.
"While the board is studying it, we're doing it," said member Nate Bush (Ward 7).
At Bush's initiative, Burrville Elementary School in far Northeast began this fall requiring students to wear a uniform: blue trousers and blue shirts for boys, blouses and blue plaid jumpers for girls. A boy's wardrobe costs $107, a girl's, $80. The school provides financial aid for parents who cannot afford the clothes.
Now, Bush said, seven more Ward 7 schools, including both elementary and junior highs, have agreed to require uniforms beginning next fall. Three Prince George's County schools and three Baltimore schools also have added uniform requirements in the last year.
"The parents are grateful for the cost savings and the students are no longer preoccupied with fitting in by having the latest clothes," Bush said.
Cropp said parents often tell her the school system has to do something to ease the pressure students feel to buy $50 tennis shoes, $60 sweatshirts and $80 jeans.
"My 15-year-old daughter heard this and said, 'Are you serious?' " Cropp says. "But she's thinking about it now."
Cropp's plan has some support in the Francis Junior High schoolyard.
"Not everybody can afford to dress right," said Hilda Lopez, a seventh grader who was wearing faded jeans, a Club sweatshirt and electric pink Converse All-Stars. "I'd like to wear a uniform because then they wouldn't tease people for how they dress."
Milion Alem, wearing Reeboks, white painter's pants and a black Team sweatshirt ("The style just came out"), couldn't believe his ears.
"That's crazy, man. I don't want to be the same as everybody because then if a style came out, you wouldn't get to wear it," he said. "People would make fun of you because they'd think you didn't have the money to pay for anything except uniforms."