Do uniforms make schools better?
Yes and no, say the experts. The heated debate over school uniforms shows no signs of cooling off.
By Marian Wilde
For the past decade, schools, parents and students have clashed over the issue of regulating student attire. In 2007, cases involving an anti-Bush T-shirt in Vermont, an anti-gay T-shirt in San Diego and Tigger socks in Napa, California, made their way through the courts, causing many to wonder whether this debate will ever be resolved.
Meanwhile, researchers are divided over how much of an impact - if any - dress policies have upon student learning. A 2004 book makes the case that uniforms do not improve school safety or academic discipline. A 2005 study, on the other hand, indicates that in some Ohio high schools uniforms may have improved graduation and attendance rates, although no improvements were observed in academic performance.
Why do some public schools have uniforms?
In the 1980s, public schools were often compared unfavorably to Catholic schools. Noting the perceived benefit that uniforms conferred upon Catholic schools, some public schools decided to adopt a school uniform policy.
President Clinton provided momentum to the school uniform movement when he said in his 1996 State of the Union speech, "If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms."
The pros and cons of school uniforms
According to proponents, school uniforms:
- Help prevent gangs from forming on campus
- Encourage discipline
- Help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes
- Help identify intruders in the school
- Diminish economic and social barriers between students
- Increase a sense of belonging and school pride
- Improve attendance
Opponents contend that school uniforms:
- Violate a student's right to freedom of expression
- Are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence
- Make students a target for bullies from other schools
- Are a financial burden for poor families
- Are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education
- Are difficult to enforce in public schools
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