The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 4, 1997 · Page 56
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 56

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 4, 1997
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Page 56
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TEENS & FREEDOM: RULES AT SCHOOL When cool creates conflict Students and schools clash over gang symbols, school uniforms and short skirts. T UNIFORMS? Pro: 17%. And: 83%. "For me, uniforms are not a problem," saysJosahDriml, 17, of Mercy High School in Omaha. H OLLY HILL, 15, FIGURED she'd smoothly avoided any conflicts over clothes by hitting the Gap with her mom to buy her high school wardrobe. She figured wrong. Neil Richmond, in his first year as principal of Holly's Midland, Texas, school, had just revived a dormant dress code: no gang-type attire, caps, saggy pants or bandannas. And, under his new edict, even Holly's new shorts and skirts violated the rules (too short). Richmond says the dress code helps him spot non- students on campus. "We have much less disruptive activity." But Holly's mom, Kathy Hill, saw it differently: "I was a little upset — now you have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Some [restrictions are] required because of the gang problems; I just wish there were another way." Few things matter more to teenagers than their looks, yet schools nationwide are making clothes calls on what's allowed, targeting items associated with gangs, such as baggy pants and bandannas. Four in 10 U.S. schools have dress codes. From hair scrunchies to scarves, items once considered just fads now are red-flagged as possible gang symbols. And kids who never dreamed a trip to the Gap could mean a visit to the principal's office feel torn between self-expression and safety. Eight in 10 teens responding to USA WEEKEND'S Teens & Freedom survey say they do not want school officials to tell them what to wear. They also said no to public school uniforms. But when asked about specific clothing items, the picture changes dramatically: A large number of kids would limit many of the items principals find most disruptive: • 3 in 4 would ban clothing with gang symbols. • 4 in 10 would ban bare midriffs. • 4 in 10 would ban nose, tongue, lip or eye rings. • 1 in 3 would ban short skirts. Marcie Hendrickson, 16, a lOth-grader at Fernley (Nev.) High School, thinks kids place too much importance on what they wear. Unlike the majority of teens surveyed, she favors school uniforms. "It would mild down a bunch of conflict [and] relax all of the segregation going on over people's clothes," Marcie says. "Not everyone can afford Nike or Adidas apparel." C3 — Patty Rhule 4 UP RINGS? Ban: 44%. Don't ban: 56%. Laura Gehrman 17, pierced her own lip last year and wears her lip ring to school in Brillion, Wis. It's "a form of = self-expression." A GANG SYMBOLS? Bra: 75% Don't ban: 25%. Leila Haydari, 16, of Benicia, Calif., says a school security guard made her take off her bandanna because he thought it could be mistaken for a gang symbol. (It was not.) *> BAGGY CLOTHES? Ban: 19% Don't ban: 81%. Says Bryan Carver, 13, of Madison, Conn.: "I'm a skater, so I'm into baggy clothes." But not at school. STUDENTS THINK SOME RESTRICTIONS ARE FINE Teens surveyed show a surprising tolerance of many school rules: CENSORSHIP • More than half -58%say schools should be able to restrict foul language in writing assignments. • 3 in 10 say it's OK to ban offensive books and magazines. • 4 in 10 say schools should have the right to censor student newspapers. Even students who oppose censorship understand the reasons behind it. Josh Ulrich, 14, is a ninth-grader at Mountoursville (Pa.) Area High School, which lost 16 students to the crash of TWA Flight 800 last July. He objected to the school's decision not to air " Classroom TV news reports about airplane crashes in the | disaster's aftermath: "I'm * sure there would have been family members who would have been upset." But "we should have been given the choice." NATIONAL ANTHEM. 7 in 10 teens say students should be required to stand during the national anthem. "It's more than just a song," says Jennifer McMurray, 13, a seventh-grader at Shiloh Christian School in Spnngdalc, Ark. "It talks about our country having freedom. You need to have respect for that" SCHOOL PRAYER. Students are split on this controversial issue. More than half-57%-agree that pubJc.schoQl officials should not have the right to lead students inpr.a/ar,But43%think it ought to be allowed. 79% of teens surveyed say public school officials should not have the right to Impose dress codes. 16 USA WEEKEND • May 2-4,1807

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