Mandatory school uniforms and freedom of expression

Ethics and Education 5 (3):203 - 215 (2010)
Abstract
On 10 December 2007 the Akron City School Board ? following the precedent set by many school systems across the United States and the world ? instituted a policy of mandatory school uniforms for all students in grades K?8. The measure was met with mixed reviews. While many parents supported the measure, a small group of parents from a selective, arts-focussed, middle school (grades 4?8) objected to the policy. It was their contention that children attending this particular school should be exempt from the policy since their children were particularly creative, and the new policy constituted an unjust infringement of their child's freedom of expression. In this article I argue that the actions of the school board, while antithetical to freedom of expression in general, do not violate the children's freedom of expression since such a right cannot properly be said to apply to the majority of children within this age group. In arguing this position, I draw on two primary ideas. The first is based on the idea that children's rights exist on a continuum from rights that protect their interests to those that protect their choices. Since the majority of children at the age specified by the policy fall on the interest side of the rights spectrum, restricting their liberty with respect to dress is not morally problematic. Secondly, I draw upon the idea of the distinction between mere expression as opposed to substantive expression to argue that most children, particularly those in the pre-teen years, lack the cognitive ability to exercise the latter
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References found in this work BETA
Hugh LaFollette (1998). Circumscribed Autonomy: Children, Care, and Custody. In Uma Narayan & Julia Bartkowiak (eds.), Having and Raising Children. Penn State University Press.
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