school uniforms

School Uniforms: Yes or No?

Many schools, not just private ones, require students to wear uniforms. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 20% of all public schools have begun to require school uniforms. That’s up from 12 percent in 2000, according to the US Department of Education.

What are the pros and cons of school uniforms? Should you send your child to a school that requires them? If your child’s school is considering a uniform policy, should you support it? At some schools it’s optional, so should your child wear one or not?


Do Uniforms Make Kids Safer?

One of the earliest reasons for implementing school uniforms was to reduce gang violence in Southern California schools. Gang colors or distinguishing accessories can signal membership, leading to clashes. Gangs may find ways around the restriction. For example, they might implement hairstyles or even shoelaces that convey meaning to those in the know. So the power to curb that brand of conflict comes with limitations.

However, some school administrators say that uniforms reduce bullying. Kids are less likely, for example, to tease someone for wearing the same thing every day. Schools with uniform policies may outlaw name brand clothing even for accessories. Students feel less pressure to wear the “right” brand or live up to fashion trends.


Do School Uniforms Stifle Self-Expression?

Opponents of uniforms say they deny students the ability to express their individuality or identify with a subculture. On the one hand, they could find workarounds just as in the gang example. Or, they can express themselves during events outside of school hours. They can, after all, attend a football game or school play wearing what they like. On the other hand, self-expression is crucial during the teen years. Teenagers are just discovering who they are and what kind of adults they want to be. Some degree of freedom is necessary for that process.

This parenting blog points out that “Wearing what feels good breeds confidence.” So while some kids might feel free of social pressure while wearing a uniform, other might feel self-conscious about how it make them look. They might worry about how the uniform fits their particular body. When everyone is dressed the same, it can actually call attention to differences in body type, a source of angst for many teens.


Do Students in Uniform Focus Better?

If, in fact, uniforms reduce certain social pressures, kids might experience fewer distractions. Proponents of school uniforms say better focus translates to better behavior. According to school-reported statistics and the School Administrator, uniform requirements have reduced tardiness, skipped classes, suspensions, and discipline referrals.

Students, especially teens, have no shortage of distractions. Rather than listening to a lecture they might worry about an upcoming dance, a recent argument with a peer, or stressors at home. Eliminating fashion concerns might take one thing off their full plates. However, is that one change enough to make a real difference? Parents and administrators may have to test it to find out.


Will Uniforms Save You Money?

Some parents balk at the cost of school uniforms. Later, though, many say they save money. Since kids ask for fewer name brand labels, parents feel less pressure to buy them. Kids generally need fewer outfits overall. They might easily wear the same pants or jacket for multiple days.

One thing to remember is that uniforms can up the pressure to stay on top of laundry. You or your kids will need to always make sure they have something clean to wear to school. However, you might turn this potential dilemma into a teaching opportunity.


The bottom line is, much of the evidence for or against uniforms is anecdotal. Results vary from school to school and city to city.

PHOTO: MaxxGirr / CC0 Public Domain

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