``If it means teen-agers will stop killing each other over designer jackets,'' he said, ``then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.''
Rendell said he supported mandatory uniforms for elementary schoolstudents.
``It helps parents financially,'' he said. ``It takes competition out of the classroom.''
In Harrisburg, Gov. Ridge said through a spokesman he enthusiastically supported uniforms and the changing of state regulations to allow public schools to require uniforms.
``He'd like to see local school districts free to decide whether they want uniforms in any of their schools,'' said Ridge press secrtary Tim Reeves.
Superintendent David Hornbeck, schools security chief John McLees, and Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith, jurist in a 25-year-old desegregation case, support the idea, at least on a voluntary basis.
``I think uniforms are a good idea,'' Hornbeck said. ``It feeds a sense of school pride and brings a sense of discipline to the school.''
Currently, state regulations prohibit mandated uniforms in public schools. Education Secretary Eugene Hickok is working to allow local options, Reeves said.
At least two California school districts have implemented mandatory uniform policies for students up to grade 8.
In Long Beach, the 60,000 students show ``widespread acceptance of the school uniforms,'' said spokesman Dick Van Der Laan.
Suspensions have dropped 32 percent, crime is down 36 percent and fighting has fallen 51 percent.
Pennsylvania law forbids officials from imposing limits on dress ``unless the attire causes the disruption of the educational process or constitutes a health or safety hazard.''
Still, Philadelphia schools have established a voluntary policy.
Neither high schools nor middle schools - showplaces for $70 Nautica jeans, $140 Air Jordan sneaks and $200 Tommy Hilfiger coats - have shown interest in uniforms.
``I think it would be a good idea,'' said Sheree Brown, a junior at Germantown High School. ``The clothes start a lot of conflicts . . . . People are robbed going to and coming from school.''
Elementary schools have fewer clothing problems. Uniforms are mandatory in most private and parochial schools.
Some public schools, such as Potter-Thomas Elementary, at 6th Street and Indiana Avenue in North Philadelphia, tried uniforms after parents asked for them four years ago.
Many of the parents grew up in Puerto Rico, where all students wear uniforms.
``You don't have to use a lot of clothes. You keep clean. The school looks better and if something happens on the way to school, people can identify the school the kid goes to by the uniform,'' said Margarita Cruz, parent of first-grader Jesely, 6.