According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2013-2014 school year, about 20 percent of public schools required students to wear uniforms, an increase from only 12 percent in 1999-2000. Proponents of school uniforms claim that the policy makes schools safer and creates a more positive environment, but opponents say that it places unnecessary limits on students and and can be costly.
Makes Schools Safer
Supporters of uniforms claim they can increase school safety. Uniforms allow staff to quickly identify people who do not belong on campus and limit the ways that gangs can identify themselves. In 1994, Long Beach United School District in California began requiring uniforms with the hopes of improving safety. Just five years later, the overall crime rate in the district was down 91 percent. Specifically, sex offenses dropped 96 percent and number of incidents of vandalism had decreased 69 percent.
Creates a Positive Environment
When all students are dressed alike, economic and social barriers between students are reduced. There is no peer pressure to wear expensive clothes or bullying of those who can't afford designer labels. Children have one less distraction, as they do not have to concern themselves with what others are wearing. Common dress can also make students feel like they belong to the school community, increase pride and even improve attendance. A 2012 study by the University of Houston of 160 public, urban schools, found that student attendance increased after schools began mandating uniforms.
Supporters of school uniforms often cite increased academic achievement as a main reason to adopt such a policy. While there is some anecdotal evidence to support this claim, overall, studies yield inconclusive results. A study by Ryan Yeung in Educational Policy analyzed student data collected from 1988 to 2004. His research found that although some test scores were higher for schools that required uniforms, in others, scores were actually lower.
Some opponents claim that uniforms are not a fix-all for the problems that plague schools, but instead violate students' right to express themselves, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. They claim that a dress code can provide guidelines and exclusions for certain types of dress, such as clothing with drug references or vulgar language printed on them, while still allowing students to make their own choices and be an individual.
Even with uniforms, parents would still need to purchase "regular" clothes for when students are not in school, thus creating an additional expense. But 77 percent of families who participated in a 2013 survey sponsored by Lands’ End School Uniform in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) estimated that they paid $150 or less annually on uniforms per child. And 80 percent of respondents found purchasing uniform apparel less financially taxing than purchasing "regular" clothes for school as well as play.
- Psychology Today: Uniform Improvements
- University of Houston: UH Study Suggests School Uniforms Reduce Student Absences, Disciplinary Problems
- GreatSchools.org: Do Uniforms Make Schools Better?
- National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts, School Uniforms
- Are School Uniforms a Good Fit? : Results From the ECLS-K and the NELS
- National Survey of School Leaders Reveals 2013 School Uniform Trends
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