The debate over uniforms in public schools has been raging for quite some time now. It was perhaps strongest in 1996, when President Bill Clinton said in his State of the Union Address, “…if it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.”
Arguments on both sides are strong. Those in favor of uniforms contend that they can lessen the effects of gangs and cliques; instill feelings of school spirit and social acceptance; help identify outsiders in the school; improve attendance; and break down social and economic barriers between students. Opponents of uniforms believe they take away students’ right to expression; can be a financial burden; don’t actually address violence in schools; and are difficult to enforce, nullifying their presence. Even the research is divided; you only need to read one article to find studies showing that schools requiring uniforms boasted improved graduation, attendance and suspension rates and that “there is no positive correlation between uniforms and school safety or academic achievement.”
So, how can schools make the uniform decision? I tend to believe one important factor is size. I went to a small, fairly rural high school where gang violence was not an issue, cliques weren’t a problem, and practically no one owned designer anything; uniforms likely would have no effect. Perhaps the emerging theory here is simply that the larger the school, the more important it is to be able to manage – and uniforms are one way to do that.
Does your school require or recommend uniforms? If not, would you like it to?