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Fighting gang violence by requiring school uniforms

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POSTED September 4, 2010 2:16 a.m.
Should Lathrop School pursue school uniforms or common dress?

If parents are concerned about the safety of their children the answer needs to be a resounding “yes.”

A group of Lathrop School parents are pushing for Manteca Unified to require uniforms for students at the school.

There are a number of reasons including helping to reel in the cost of dressing to fit in or impress peers as well as avoiding cliques often created simply by clothing visuals.

The best reason, though, might be the impact it would have on the safety of students at school as well as walking to and from campus.

Manteca Police Detective Sgt. Dan Erb noted that Sureno gang members have a habit of roaming the streets looking for anybody wearing red – the telltale sign of a Norteno gang member. The reverse is also true with Nortenos looking for those wearing blue. Erb noted they don’t check to make sure of the person’s association before they attack.

Erb’s remarks followed a stabbing in Manteca’s Shasta Park earlier this week that happened just a few hundred feet from Shasta School. Classes had been out for a couple of hours. Still the fact gang members are seeking out victims based on clothing in close proximity to our schools should be more than enough for parents to give serious thought to backing a common dress or uniform policy at their particular elementary campus.

A few years back, Manteca Police gang unit officers shared at how frustrating it could be to get parents to understand why they shouldn’t allow their kids to wear blue or red hats or belts. Several parents were upset with the rule that Sequoia School in Manteca had put in place to avoid violence not on campus but from happening when kids were walking to and from school.

Officers told of 9-year-olds with absolutely no gang affiliation being intimidated walking to and from school and who were sometimes beaten just because they chose to wear red or blue articles of clothing.

Yes, it is a sad state of affairs when we have to clamp down on how youth dress by going to a universal standard everyone has to comply with out of real concern for their safety.

It is reality, though.

Lathrop School parents seem to be driven even by a higher calling than that. It is the latest in a several moves Lathrop School has made to reduce distractions and to get back to basics in the classroom.

There was a point when Manteca Unified schools had to ban parents from renting limos to ferry their children to and from eighth grade graduations.

Lathrop School has gone a step farther eliminating the eighth grade graduation ceremonies that in recent years have tended to mimic the high school versions. Instead they went to a low-key day-time on-campus celebration that involves families of the students.

Lathrop School also ditched their old red and white colors since red is favored by Norteno gang members. That meant any school spirit clothing with red in it could be misconstrued by Sureno gang members as showing affiliation with their bitter rivals.

School should be a safe haven that has an environment conducive to learning.

A common dress or uniform policy has the potential of getting rid of a big distraction whether it spells over into the area of student safety or is simply policing kids to make sure they where appropriate clothing.

It also has the potential of ultimately reducing clothing costs for families.

Regardless of the reason, a common dress or uniform policy may indeed be an idea whose time has come.

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