School Uniforms: a Controversial Issue

School uniforms have been a controversial issue in the United States. Students, teachers, and parents have varied feelings about the need for students to wear uniforms. While some point to the need for all learners to look alike and for discipline purposed, others contend that the requirement for all learners to wear uniforms takes away students’ freedom of self-expression. Despite the reasons identified by opponents, school uniforms are necessary for schools and all stakeholders need to embrace it.

Most students and even parents will argue that school uniforms stifle individualism. A student’s outfit can be a bold statement of one’s persona or views especially for high school students (Underwood). Opponents argue that uniforms take away an individual’s freedom of expression. However, the clothes that people wear, or can afford to wear, often define the group by which they are accepted. Because of this, many teens become outsiders because they can’t afford to buy name brand clothing. This rejection can lead to several problems for the outcast teen: depression, inability to concentrate on schoolwork, or just a general feeling of inferiority. School uniforms put everyone on the same level because no outfit is better or more expensive than another. Most importantly, uniforms create a sense of equality among students (Perez).

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School uniforms not only create a sense of equality, but they also increase the safety of the students. Wearing uniforms can help teachers spot students in a crowd so no student goes missing on a field trip (Perez). They also help identify campus intruders who happen to stick out like a sore thumb, thus increasing the safety of students (Perez). According to a study published in 2000, schools see a decrease in gang incidence and school violence when they implement and enforce a school uniform. When compared to schools that don’t have a school uniform policy, the result is significant.

School uniforms contribute to a better discipline in everyday school operations (Baumann, Krskova). When teachers create a discipline environment, students tend to peak performance which leads to better academics. When students all wear the same outfit, they are less concerned about they look or how they may fit in, therefore they can concentrate on their schoolwork. In addition, by wearing uniforms it helps the student get dressed faster allowing them extra time for sleeping or studying (Gentile, Imberman). Some students take hours to get ready for school which can result in lack of sleep, having uniforms would allow them to get dressed within a matter of minutes.

A less renowned theory regarding the pros of school uniforms is the halo effect. According to researcher Marc Posner, the halo effect raises the idea that while uniforms may not change student behavior, uniforms may change the way teachers and other adults view the students who wear them. In a study of the correlation of student clothing and teacher and student perceptions, Dorothy Behling of Bowling Green University found that teachers and students

believe that students that wear uniforms not only behave better, but also do better academically than those who don’t wear uniforms.

There are a lot of families that worry about not be able to afford uniforms. Since no child can be denied an education because of economic disadvantage, all schools requiring uniforms must include provisions to assist low-income families. However, uniforms are considerably cheaper to buy than non-uniform clothes, and the students can wear them every day and it isn’t considered unusual. Parents can buy a few pairs of uniforms for under $100, while parents of non-uniform-wearing students can spend from several hundreds’ up to $1,000 a year on clothing. Parents find that buying a couple pairs of school uniforms is cheaper than having to buy clothing that are name brand and in trend with the current year.

While research on the use of uniforms is continuing, they have been proven to raise test scores, boost self-esteem, reduce violence and crime, and create a sense of equality in students. They help children to concentrate on learning and academics instead of what everyone else is wearing or whether they fit in. Uniforms may not be the answer to all the problems in the world that students and teachers face but research and statistics say it might be a step in the right path.

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