The amount of schools that require uniforms is on the rise!

In 2003, one in eight schools required students to wear uniforms. By 2011, one in five schools makes students wear some type of uniform. And the number keeps going up.

Whether this is a good thing or bad thing, we’ll leave it for you to decide, but the fact is that more and more schools are turning to uniforms to help solve some of their problems.

In the past, school uniforms were only required in private school or Catholics schools. But now the public school systems are getting in on the game.

Why? Why are public schools turning to uniforms?

Well there are many reasons that proponents of school uniforms talk about. Before we get into these reasons, lets be clear that the issue isn’t black and white. There are many detractors of school uniforms, and not just among the students themselves. Parents argue the issue. School administrators argue it. There are facts that support arguments from both sides.

We will present the positives and negatives. Please bear in mind, we’re not taking sides here – we’re just putting forth the ideas and arguments.

Positives of School Uniforms

Proponents of school uniforms say that it helps to make a level playing field for all kids, reducing the socioeconomic differences. If a poor kid can’t afford the latest fashion trends, she might be bullied. But uniforms are said to reduce this form of bullying.

Uniforms also make sure that kids aren’t wearing something inappropriate. It’s become more common for children to wear t-shirts with images or sayings that aren’t quite right for school. Likewise, a trend among many young women is wearing clothes that are too revealing – shorts that are too short, revealing midriffs, that sort of thing. With a uniform the school can easily mandate the dress code among all students.

School uniforms are also said to engender better discipline among students. The act of getting dressed in the morning is simpler; time is saved by not dealing with the choice of what to wear. Dressing a bit more formally also gets kids in the mindset of getting things done. Wearing a clean and nice looking set of clothes can make you feel better, as opposed to wearing a beat up t-shirt and pair of jeans.

There are also statistics that say that uniforms help students achieve better attendance.

Uniforms can increase a sense of camaraderie, togetherness and school pride. They can help prevent gangs from forming on campus, since gangs can’t wear identifying clothing (among other reasons). They can also help identify intruders to the school; since everyone is wearing the same clothing, anyone seen NOT wearing a school uniform is quickly and easily identifiable.

Also, most school principals believe that uniforms are more cost effective compared to purchasing regular clothing. While you might spend $150 or so on uniforms for a school year, that’s much less than the cost of buying “regular” clothes for the entire year.

However, much of the above can and is refuted by opponents of school uniforms. (A large amount of students will decry the use of uniforms, but that’s not what were talking about.)

Negatives of School Uniforms

Many say that mandating uniforms violates a students freedom of expression. In the U.S.A., this is a pretty serious thing to think about; the entirety of our Republic is formed on personal freedom. What are we teaching our kids if we force them to wear a uniform? (If all public schools mandated uniforms, one could argue that it would feel a bit like Nazi Germany.)

For instance, in 2013 at a high school in Maryland, students weren’t allowed to wear pink shirts to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 75 kids got in-school suspensions for violating the school’s uniform policy.

While proponents say that uniforms reduce bullying, there are stats that prove the opposite. For instance, a 2007 study found that, “school uniforms increased the average number of assaults by about 14 [per year] in the most violent schools.

Another study found that uniforms have “no effects of uniforms on absenteeism, behavioral problems (fights, suspensions, etc.), or substance use on campus” and “no effects” on “pro-school attitudes, academic preparedness, and peer attitudes toward school.

The very first public school to institute a uniform policy in the U.S.A. was the Long Beach (CA) Unified School District. While things improved during the program, the school isn’t sure that the uniform policy is the main reason for the improvement, or even if it helped at all:

The oft-quoted improvements to school safety and student behavior in the Long Beach (CA) Unified School District from 1993-1995 may not have resulted from the introduction of school uniforms. The study in which the findings were published cautioned that “it is not clear that these results are entirely attributable to the uniform policy” and suggests that the introduction of new school security measures made at the same time may have been partly responsible. [http://school-uniforms.procon.org/]

Other detractors say that uniforms are simply a band-aid for the school problems. That a focus on uniforms takes away from finding a genuine solution to educational problems.

Also, Americans spend over $1 billion dollars a year on school uniforms. Many people believe that corporate interests profit greatly at the expense of the American people. These interests push the agenda of school uniforms through congress and the local school systems.

These companies spend gobs of cash to market to schools and to promote studies that are spun to be universally positive about the effects of uniforms in schools.

The Real Results

Students themselves tend to be split on the subject of school uniforms. Some say they hate them, they’re uncomfortable and that uniforms don’t allow the students to develop a sense of identity, thereby stunting their growth.

Other students believe that uniforms can offer some advantages and make them better students and their school a better place in general.

A post at Greatschools.org gives us some good data on the subject:

After a school uniform policy was implemented in three Nevada middle schools in 2008 and 2009, researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, set out to find out what 1,350 seventh and eighth graders thought about the change. The vast majority — 90 percent of students — reported that they disliked wearing uniforms. However, other data showed more nuanced results. For instance, 54 percent of students agreed that they still had their identity while wearing a uniform, and 50 percent agreed that uniforms saved their families money. But only 41 percent of students agreed that there was less gang activity at their school after uniforms were required. However, when the researchers looked into school discipline and local police records and compared them to the prior year’s data, discipline referrals were down 10 percent, there were 63 percent fewer police log reports, and graffiti, fights, and gang-related activity were all down.

Really this is just a brief overview of school uniforms. We could dig in much deeper and get into the data. Of course you have to look at who is behind the data too! In any case, there are very good arguments that support both sides of the debate.

For a really nice breakdown of the pros and cons of school uniforms (deeper than we have gone here), check out this article: Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms?

How do you feel about school uniforms? What is your experience?