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Clinton Supports School Uniforms

February 24, 1996

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Drawing on the politically popular themes of fighting crime and strengthening families, President Clinton today championed the idea of requiring youngsters to wear school uniforms as a means of instilling discipline and order.

Pointing to a rash of youthful crimes across the country, Clinton said, ``School uniforms are one step that may be able to help break this cycle of violence, truancy and disorder by helping young students to understand that what really counts is what kind of people they are, what’s on the inside.″

To underscore his point, Clinton was to visit Jackie Robinson Academy, a public school in the Long Beach Unified School District, which boasts it was the first in the country with a mandatory uniform policy in all elementary and middle classes.

Clinton also signed a directive instructing the Education Department to distribute a manual on school uniforms to all 16,000 school districts in the United States. He said it would provide a road map for schools to adopt a uniform policy but that Washington was not telling anyone what to do.

The president’s initiative does not offer any federal aid for purchasing school uniforms. That cost is left to the schools and parents.

Clinton announced his proposal on his 22nd visit as president to California, a state crucial to his re-election hopes. He’ll be back in California again early in March in advance of the state’s presidential primary.

Before flying home today, Clinton also was stopping in Seattle, his second visit to Washington state in 10 days. It has a primary election March 26, the same day as California.

In his weekly radio address, Clinton said Long Beach’s school uniform policy has paid off by cutting school crime, reducing fights and discouraging students from bringing guns to class.

``We must get violence out of our schools and we must put discipline and learning back in our schools,″ the president said. ``If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.

``If it means that the schoolrooms will be more orderly, more disciplined, that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.″

Clinton briefly mentioned the school uniform program in his State of the Union address to Congress last month. Today was his full rollout of support for the idea.

He quoted a letter from Long Beach fourth grader Aziza Walker, who wrote him that school uniforms make it easier to decide what to wear. ``It also helps me when I walk home with my cousin or by myself. So I won’t get shot, beaten or robbed by a gang, or just by some maniac on the street.″

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