RI weighs allowing schools to require uniforms


RhodeĀ Island school districts could set stricter student dress codes under legislation pending in the General Assembly.

Districts may now set dress standards and discipline students who dress inappropriately. The new proposal is designed to go further and allow local schools to mandate uniforms or stricter dress codes, though no district would be required to enact such rules.

The proposal was reviewed on Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. John Tassoni Jr., the bill’s sponsor, said uniforms could curb classroom distractions and bullying while cutting the time teachers spend disciplining students for inappropriate clothing. Tassoni, D-Smithfield, said he regularly visits his local high school and sees firsthand why dress codes are needed.

“I’m appalled to see how kids dress,” Tassoni said. “If they had uniforms, it would be better. It would be cleaner.”

RhodeĀ Island’s affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union argues that mandated dress codes in public schools are both wrong and ineffective, according to Steven Brown, the group’s director.

“There’s no evidence that a school uniform policy does what they’re intended to do,” Brown said. “It takes away students’ individuality at the same time.”

The Senate committee also reviewed legislation that would prohibit students from using cellphones during the school day. Students who violate the proposed statewide policy could have their phones confiscated. That bill is also sponsored by Tassoni.

Both bills await a vote in the committee.

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