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Does banning colors in schools actually prevent gang activity?

Posted on August 22, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Guest editorial by Dean Szanyi | Student Reporter

It is no secret that a certain number of young people attending Sonoma Valley High School are affiliated with gangs, and the school district is making clear attempts to curb such affiliations in their students. However, one major way they have tried to combat students’ gang ties has been controversial since it was instituted.

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For a long time, Sonoma Valley High School’s dress code simply banned the colors Dodger blue and 49er red, which are often associated with street gangs. However, this policy has drawn criticism, especially from students who claim the school is inconsistent in enforcing it. Last school year, the policy was updated to only prohibit red and blue in solid-color form, while also banning a predominance of any color. Apparently, anybody who comes to school wearing all pink is part of a gang now, too.

It also seems strange that they would specifically target Dodger blue and 49er red in the first place. Maybe a student will be wearing one of these colors because they are a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco 49ers. Why the dress code would target certain shades of red and blue that have direct connections to something besides gangs, in an effort to prevent gang activity, is anybody’s guess.

The problem with banning these colors also lies in the possibility that students with gang ties will simply find new colors to express their affiliation. The main argument in favor of enforcing such dress codes is that, while they will not exactly make all the gangs go away, and maybe they will not slow down future gang recruitment either, they might make students who are not affiliated with gangs feel safer. An entry in Prevention Works, a blog by the National Crime Prevention Council, claims that “using dress codes to ban certain articles or styles of clothing associated with gangs prevalent in a school or district can still alleviate the worries of students by reducing the gang’s visibility and therefore alleviating pressure for students to join a gang.” 

That idea right there proves the most pressing flaw in the argument in favor of these dress code rules. If students are affiliated with gangs, and they cannot wear attire that expresses or implies their affiliation, perhaps that may make them an even bigger danger to other students who do not have gang ties. On the other hand, if such students are allowed to wear their “gang colors” to their classes, their unaffiliated peers will know exactly who they might want to steer clear of. 

A high school sophomore speaking to The Atlantic observed, “I think that we’re still going to have the same gang problem. We’re just going to be angry at the administration.” Those in support of these dress codes often offer little to no empirical evidence that such enforcement actually curbs gang activity among young people, because there is essentially no such evidence. Banning supposed “gang colors” makes people think that the problem is solved when it actually isn’t, and that kind of dishonesty from those in power is, in its own way, just as dangerous as the main problem at hand.

 



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