Do School Uniforms Make For Better Students

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The use of school uniforms used to be restricted to private, “Catholic” schools. It is only in recent years that the issue of students wearing school uniforms in public schools has come up as an issue. This has become an issue as part of the broader discussion of educational reform. Public schools are looking to copy the success of private schools and are looking at school uniforms as part of this equation. It is thought that the use of school uniforms will improve the environment of public school campuses and to improve student academic achievement. The evidence should be carefully looked at before schools rush in to change their uniform policies. Schools uniforms should not be a requirement because proponents have not proved that they benefit students at the expense of their self-expression.

An argument given by proponents of school uniforms is that school uniforms cut down on violence in schools and increase grades. But what do people really think of school uniforms? Many people believe that school uniforms hinder a student’s ability to express themselves. Some people believe that school uniforms have no business in public schools. School uniforms are rising up as a big question in front of students, parents, and school administrations. To put school uniforms into effect, a vote must happen with the parents of the school district before bringing the idea up with the school board. The affected students should be allowed to give their opinions on the subject of school uniforms before it becomes policy. (

An argument against school uniforms is that school uniforms hold back student’s individuality. Teens and kids often express their feelings through their clothes. Uniforms take away this form of expression from them. A school uniform policy holds back a student’s freedom of choice. As part of the curriculum, schools teach students that our country is founded on the belief of personal freedom. But when schools make students wear what they tell them to, it restricts students’ freedom of expression. In addition to any required school uniforms, parents would also need to buy more clothes for their children to wear after school and on the weekends. That significantly increases the amount of money a family would spend on their children’s clothing then they would without the requirement of school uniforms. (

The following excerpts are from a debate on school uniforms in public school: “Lots of gangs use clothes to identify themselves and other gangs.” (Proponent) “Why not simply remove the gang members from the school’s and place them in an alternative learning environment like a boot camp?” (Opponent) “School uniforms are expensive and have no use outside of school.” (Opponent) “School uniforms will do nothing but cut down on students’ individuality. A uniform is not the way to cut down on school violence. The only thing that will cut down on school violence is if parents would pay attention to their children and keep their children out of trouble and give them consequences when they disobey and not to let them run wild.” (Danyelle C. Swain, opponent) “Not everyone should be punished for other people’s crimes!” (Opponent) The following debates were from

“Some school uniform advocates can’t wait for school uniforms, but others are not so convinced. They fear the spread of school uniforms will suppress student creativity. Experienced educators know from many years of experience that kids often dream up truly inspired loopholes. El Paso’s Rivera remembers the girl who came to school wearing contact lenses that gave her the appearance of having yellow cat eyes. It wasn’t a clear violation of the policy because no one had thought to include contacts in the dress code. Still he says, “We had to put a stop to that…It was a distraction to every kid in her class.” And a real eye-opener for the principal.” (Pan, Esther, Page 73, Newsweek.)

Proponents of school uniforms argue the case that school uniforms gives a sense of purpose. Opponents counter that they feel it is a meaningless conformity. Proponents feel that school uniforms help with social equalization. Opponents respond that school uniforms only work with the young students. For certain families, a required school uniform may create some problems. Two school uniforms must be worn five days a week, which means they must be cleaned more often than regular clothes worn outside of school. (

School uniforms may hold back the self-expression of students through clothing. Students who wear school uniforms may start to wear make-up early or change their uniforms appearance to make themselves look different than everyone else. Self-expression and individuality are important for a child’s development. (

Students who study at schools would always like to be free of rules and regulations. They would rather dress in the latest fashions. The main reason schools choose not to allow their students to wear their own clothes because they do not want gangs. Having school uniforms prevent gang members from showing their colors and clothes. The schools also believe it helps stop violence they help stop violence and help inspire a sense of pride in students. School’s administration may require a school uniform when it has intense need to be put into place.

Proponents think that school uniforms help prevent gangs from forming on campus, encourage discipline, help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes, help identify intruders in the school, diminish economic and social barriers between students, increase a sense of belonging and school pride, and improve attendance. But others think that school uniforms violate a student’s right to freedom of expression, are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence, make students a target for bullies from other school, and are a financial burden for poor families. (Marian Wilde)

Many educators, parents, and students say they like the idea of school uniforms because school administrators face a complicated task setting dress code, standards that identify in appropriate coverage and inappropriate insignia. It may be far easier to require school uniforms then to detail and enforce independently chosen clothing. Dress code aside, the interest in fashion and fad combined with peer pressure can lead to pressure to spend money that some families can not afford. School uniforms help to refocus on this issue because the wearing of school uniforms emphasizes school membership and group identity, fosters a school spirit, decreases stealing items of apparel, increases identification of intruders on campuses more easily, and makes easier identification of students on field trips. The wearing of school uniforms help students to realize that a person’s uniqueness goes deeper than their clothing and is not lessened by the wearing of a school uniform.

Other educators, parents, and students are opposed to school uniforms for many different reasons. Uniforms interfere with students’ rights for self-expression. Uniforms are an unnecessary expense and can create an economic hardship themselves. Uniforms are an unnecessary grab of power by administrators who don’t know how to be effective leaders. The wearing of uniforms does not prevent the formation of cliques or gangs. The wearing of uniforms does not prevent students from expressing unpopular or inappropriate views in other ways. School uniforms can be ugly and/or unflattering, and having to wear something unattractive or unflattering is not good for students’ self-image. Finally, the wearing of uniforms may delay or prevent students from having to learn how to get along with people whose personal taste differs from their own and which they may find unappealing. Wearing of school uniforms may give students the impression that conformity is the way to prevent conflict and this is not an appropriate message for schools to send. (“Public School Uniform Debate”)

Proponents point out the benefits of school uniforms, which include decreasing violence and theft – even life-threatening situations – among students over designer clothing or expensive shoes, helping prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school, instilling students with discipline, helping parents and students resist peer pressure, helping students concentrate on their school work, and helping school staff recognize intruders who come to the school. As a result, many local communities are adopting school uniform regulations as part of an overall program to make kids safe and improve school discipline. (Manual on School Uniforms)

States such as California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have enacted school uniform regulations. Many large public school systems – including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Miami, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle and St. Louis – have schools with either voluntary or mandatory uniform policies. These mostly are elementary and middle schools with these regulations. In addition, many private and parochial schools have required uniforms for a number of years. Still other schools have implemented dress codes to encourage a safe environment by, for example, prohibiting clothes with certain language and gang colors. (Manual on School Uniforms)

“Kiara Newsome’s spotless navy jumper and demure white blouse won’t win raves on the runways. But to school reformers, the 6-year-old is a real trendsetter. This fall, Kiara and her classmates at P.S. 15 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side joined hundreds of thousands of students in the nation’s largest school system, and donned uniforms for the first time. Kiara likes her new duds “cause they’re pretty.” Educators in New York and around the country believe uniforms could also solve some of toughest problems facing schools today. In the aftermath of the Littleton, Colo., shootings, many see dress codes as a cheap and simple way to make schools safer. This fall, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Houston, Cleveland and Washington D.C., all have a majority of their students in uniforms. “It’s spreading to the suburbs now,” says Vince Ferrandino, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. “It’s become a national phenomenon.” (Newsweek)

As this paper has described, proponents of school uniforms make all these wonderful claims about the benefits of school uniforms; e.g., lowers student victimization, decreases gang activity, identifies friend from foe, increases student academic achievement, improves school environment, increases school spirit, and etc. But where is their proof to all these supposed benefits? David Brunsma of the University of Alabama and Kerry Rockquemore of the University of Notre Dame conducted a study in 1998 to empirically test the claims made by proponents of school uniforms. They used data from the National Educational longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) for their research. The NELS: 88 is a national stratified random sample of schools and students who were in the 8th grade in 1988. These students were surveyed a second time in 1990 when they were in the 10th grade. Brunsma and Rockquemore organized the data from schools by whether the school required a uniform or not. The variables used in their study were absenteeism, behavioral problems, substance use, and academic achievement. They used these variables to test whether there was any difference in these student outcomes for schools that required uniforms against those that did not have the requirement. Their study failed to find any direct effect on absenteeism, behavioral problems, or on substance use. Their study did surprisingly find that school uniform use had a negative effect on student academic achievement! They suggest that school uniforms are like putting a fresh coat of paint on a deteriorating building. Looks visibly nice and improves the environment; but, this doesn’t really change the fact that it is still a deteriorating building needing more than cosmetic change.

Proponents think that school uniforms create a safe learning environment. They believe students who are safe and secure, learn basic American values and what it means to be good citizen, will become better students. These parents, teachers and school officials feel that the adoption of school uniform regulations can promote school safety, improve student discipline, and make the learning environment better.

But do school uniforms really help in school? Public schools should not have school uniforms. They are an extra burden to those families that can not afford them. Students would need to wear school uniforms five times a week and usually own at least two. That makes buying clothes more expensive. The students would not wear them outside of school causing parents to buy more clothes. School uniforms are also unappealing to most students. They cause school to be boring and dull. Students wear their own individual clothing to express their creativity and uniqueness. Teenagers need to be able to express themselves, that is part of the learning experience. With school uniforms, students lose that ability at school. School uniforms ultimately cost more in the long run. Parents have to spend more money on regular clothes and then again uniforms. They also need to spend more money cleaning them. Most importantly there is no proof that school uniforms improve student’s academic achievement. For these reasons, school uniforms should not be a requirement in public schools.

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