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School Uniforms

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Essay title: School Uniforms

School Uniforms

School uniforms have been around for over a century in the private school sector of the United States. In the 1980s school officials in California began considering mandatory school uniforms in public schools as a way of decreasing gang related violence. The ensuing debate gained momentum in January of 1996 when President Clinton endorsed the idea in his State of the Union Address. The issue of requiring school uniforms in public schools is still a heated debate today.

Supporters credit the use of school uniforms as one factor in the reduction of the amount of violence occurring in schools. “A February 1996 survey by the National Association of Secondary School Principals found that 70% of middle and high school principals believed that uniforms reduced the number of discipline problems and violent incidents in school” (“Uniforms Rule”). “In Long Beach, California, where the nation’s first mandatory school uniform policy was implemented in the district’s elementary and middle schools in 1994, officials reported a 36% decline in school-based crime within one year of the policies implementation” (Viadero). Several school officials believe that mandatory uniforms hinder gang violence by preventing the display of gang-related colors, symbols, and name brands. Many advocates also believe school uniforms help prevent crimes such as robbery, assault, and even murder that may occur over expensive clothing.

In addition to reducing school violence, supporters believe school uniforms raise students’ self-esteem. Some proponents say uniforms may lead to a reduction in peer pressure, teasing and bullying. Keith King of the University on Cincinnati published a study in which he states, “overall students in uniform felt more like a team. Students feel connected to the school and they feel like they fit in” (“Uniforms Rule”). Most parents and school officials agree that the desire to feel peer acceptance is a strong force that drives many of the actions of children. “Wearing uniforms acts as a social leveler; all students are equal in the eyes of the school and of each other. In institutions without uniforms students are often competitive in dress and worry endlessly about their appearance. Pupils without expensive, trendy clothes may become social outcasts”(qtd. in “The Debatabase Book”).”There is a societal history of students with lower income becoming subjected to teasing and bullying due to the appearance of their clothes. Proponents suggest that uniforms make income levels less visible which promotes social equality.

Moreover, several educators and researchers propose school uniforms have a positive effect on the students’ academic performance. Increased attendance and higher test scores are often credited to the use of uniforms. “Uniforms set the tone for a proper attitude toward school work” (Anderson 6). Uniforms do not allow the distraction of inappropriate attire to get in the way of the students’ concentration. Several supporters report that today’s fashions are very revealing, therefore, causing the distraction of fellow students and in class disruptions. Proponents attribute students’ feelings of responsibility, pride, and safety to the uniforms. Many believe if the students dress better they will feel better, therefore, they will perform better.

Opponents of school uniforms suggest the uniforms impede the students’ freedom of speech. “A policy requiring students to wear a uniform, or any restrictive dress code, is another form of prior restraint in that it prevents students from expressing themselves through their clothes” (Imber and Van Geel 134). Many parents believe their child’s individualism, creativity, and self expression are stifled by the restrictive nature of uniforms. “Some believe that school uniforms are analogous to prison uniforms and cause students to feel entrapped” (Anderson 8). Backing the opposition to mandatory school uniforms, the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, protests school uniforms violate the civil liberties of students. The ACLU proclaims that uniforms prevent freedom of speech and of religion by restricting self expression through clothing.

Additionally, opponents cite cost of the uniforms as another negative aspect of school uniforms. Several critics point out that uniforms can be expensive

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