Uniforms in School: A Benefit for Students and Educators Alike
In recent years educators, administrators, government officials and even parents and community members have been divided over the issues of school uniforms. While many still violently oppose the notion of mandated uniforms in educational institutions, there is a growing population of people that support uniforms for a variety of reasons.
There have been several studies of late that have examined the potential pros and cons of mandated uniforms at the elementary, middle and high school level. While some of the studies surrounding the issue have revealed little correlation between uniform wear and performance, others have suggested that there are many benefits students and educators have to reap from wearing uniforms. Perhaps the single most advantageous benefit of mandated uniforms is an increased level of safety within the nation's school district. These ideas are examined in greater detail below.
The debate surrounding the benefits and advantages of uniforms has continued for several years. The predominate argument has been that school uniforms "reduce the effects of social disparity" (Bodine, 67). That is, distinctions including those of wealth and poverty are eliminated when everyone within a school environment is required to look the same. There are controversial studies which suggest that students from low economic echelons of society will be discriminated against whether they where uniforms or not (Wilkins, 1). One benefit of uniforms however is that students have the opportunity to feel like they fit in because everyone is required to wear the same thing. The dress code may vary slightly with regard to the exact brand of clothing a student selects, but by and large the color and style will remain the same across all levels, minimizing the effects of discrimination that might be associated with ones wardrobe.
Early studies conducted on school uniforms have shown that uniform dress among students "insures economy, democracy and equality of opportunity" (Mishoe, 2). This study aligns with more modern studies that also suggest that uniforms help enhance equal opportunity and reduce undesirable traits among students (Bodine, 67). When each and every student is required to wear the same clothing day after day, students are less likely to pick on or single out students or individuals based on the type of clothing they are wearing.
Those arguing for uniforms claim that uniforms help promote simplicity, practicality and frugality" (Bodine, 67). More modern themes associated with discourse on school uniforms include subjects related to safety, school climate, shoplifting, peer pressure, family stress and truancy (Bodine, 67). There are several studies that suggest that students in a uniformed environment are more likely to perform well, less likely to drop out or skip class and more likely to engage in non-violent behaviors while in the school setting, benefits that enable students and educators alike (Boding, 67).
Do uniforms help improve academic performance? A study published by the Journal of Educational Research as well as other studies suggest that uniforms are not correlated with academic achievement (Bodine, 67). However the primary studies examining this relationship related to the catholic sector or private schools rather than the population at large. There is adequate evidence that suggests that further studies will be needed to confirm or disprove this hypothesis. Pickles (2000) finds a positive correlation between academic performance and uniform wear, suggesting that students who wear uniforms are more likely to achieve better results on standardized tests after a period of one year or more.
"Clothing wars" as they are sometimes referred to typically "reach crisis proportions in the middle and high school years" (Field, Foster, Hoge & Nickell, 284). Students commonly fight over the types or brands of clothing that others wear. More commonly, gangs use clothing including styles and brands of wear to differentiate themselves from others and indicate membership to a particular gang or clique. There have been instances in larger cities where students have been harmed because someone attempted to steal their clothing or defile another student by picking on them for the type of clothing they wore (Field, Foster, Hoge & Nickell, 284). It is important that when children are at such a vulnerable age the number of factors they have to dwell on and stress about is diminished. Wearing uniforms will alleviate some of the stress and burden of wearing the right clothing or wearing.
Perhaps the biggest argument in favor of wearing school uniforms is increasing safety in schools. Some studies have revealed that parents and administrators are looking for a safe and orderly environment which will emphasize education and achievement rather than appearances (Cohn, 22). To that effect there are some reports that uniformed schools are more likely to make student safety a top priority; in schools where uniforms are required, gang clothing doesn't exist (Cohn, 22). Students are free from worries about wearing gang colors and styles, and do not have to focus "undue attention upon making sure they or their parents select clothing colors or items that avoid inadvertently advertising oneself as a gang member (Cohn, 22).
The use of uniforms as a measure of safety has been recognized in some smaller studies at both the middle and high school level (Cohn, 22). While opponents argue that making students wear uniforms reduced a student's ability to express their creativity and personality, supporters argue that wearing uniforms has a much bigger benefit than this small disadvantage ... namely it protects students from violence that might occur as a result of wearing the wrong type of clothing.
Uniforms can thus be supported as an easy means of providing a neutral environment and clothing for students that might otherwise be a target for wearing the wrong colors (Cohn, 1996).
According to other safety proponents of wearing uniforms, uniforms also allow educators and officials to easily and immediately identify anyone who may not belong on campus (Cohn, 22).
This has been a potential problems particularly in large schools where outsiders can cause disruption and violence when they gain access to schools without identification, simply because it is easier to fit in an environment where there are no uniforms because everyone appears different (Cohn, 1996).
Some have argued that a more vigorous enforcement of a dress code would serve the same purpose as mandated uniforms; however according to one Long Beach school district they used to have a dress code that had to be amended every couple of years to exclude new clothing and articles that were favored by gang members (Cohn, 1996).
The types of clothing that gang members wear changes constantly, making it difficult to enforce a rule that simply establishes a dress code.
First year results in studies that examined the reduction in crime following implementation of mandatory uniform policies suggest that the following occurrences have decreased substantially as a result of uniform wear: fighting, assaults, robbery, vandalism and weapons possession (Cohn, 22). This was true in K-8 as well as high schools, where 36% fewer crime incidents were reported (Cohn, 22).
Requiring students to wear uniforms has also resulted in a reduction in suspensions at the middle and elementary school level, as well as at the high school level by as much as 9% (Cohn, 22).
School uniform supporters also offer that uniforms are typically inexpensive and may consist of nothing more than a white shirt or blouse or polo short and navy or beige pants (Cohn, 22).
There are some that suggest that school uniforms may enhance a sense of belonging and school spirit, though there is little empirical evidence to support this claim (Wilkins, 1). One thing can be certain, individuals that are members of a particular school are more easily identified when they wear uniforms as opposed to those who do not (Wilkins, 1). This begs the question as to whether or not all students…