Benefits of School Uniforms
There are many sides to the debate about school uniforms, but the debate against mandatory school uniforms comes more from the libertarians and groups from the old school guard. The problem with the old school group and civil libertarians reflect an age when school violence and bullying were not as prevalent in the school system as they are today. School age children are consistently being accosted and bullied for designer clothing and gang violence is at an all-time high in many school districts, but, the addition of a mandatory school policy can decrease national and state figures relative to school violence.
It is time for children and young adults to be able to attend school and learn without fear of intimidation. By implementing a policy of mandatory school uniforms, less time is spent on social awkwardness where many students who simply cannot afford to wear the latest fashion design and can stop worrying about the gangs around the school who look at what colors of what a student wears to initiate bullying practices.
First, there is a need to actually define why school administrators and educators are looking to enforcing mandatory school uniforms and the reason why President Clinton, in 1996, during his State of the Union address endorsed uniforms in American schools. In order to do accomplish this, it is important to look at what issues school administrators and educators feel are the impeders of learning and scholarly advancement.
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Oftentimes students who are continually focused on fashion and attaining the latest “look” tend to spend far less time in a positive learning situation.
“Distraction leads to poor learning environments” (PSParents) Many advocates of a mandatory school uniform policy point to the increasing instances of violence within the school system and much of that is tied into the student’s appearance itself. There are instances where children are “inflicting bodily harm on one another because of the name brand on a jacket or a pair of jeans; and, in larger cities where gang involvement is prevalent, children are killed because they chose the wrong color to wear to school.
The issue is not about civil liberties or freedom of expression but about improving the deteriorating state of the educational environment within our public school system nationwide” (PSParents). Many experts are of the opinion that students that attend schools wearing uniforms actually have higher academic scores. It is also believed that school uniforms can look to improving student attendance and focus intently on studies without worrying about whether they can or their parents can purchase for them the same “new” style of clothing.
The old phrase of “keeping up with the Jones’” can attest to what many young students where they simply want what their friends are wearing. Many school administrators are of the opinion that students who wear school uniforms behave in a far more appropriate manner within the school atmosphere as uniforms lend to engaging students in appropriate behavior by reducing violence within the system.
The most plausible reason for this is that with standardized dress there is less places to hide weapons in where in the fashion standard of students, especially in high school, weapons can be hidden in pockets in waist bands of pants that have shirts laid overtop and in baseball caps. It is this author’s opinion that with less opportunity to hide weapons in clothing and headgear of what student’s are currently wearing can hide weapons that are carried into the school and, if there are no metal detectors present, leaves an undeniable avenue for violent propensities.
What has been considered one of the more conscionable reasons for the policy to implemented within the school system is the social preying that occur with many indigent students. Many students come from impoverished family units and if they are unable to afford the latest trends and this is one of the ways that students look to in an attempt at self-expression and definition. This is a huge factor in a child’s psychological development and if there is a removal of this one barrier that students continually come up against, there is a marked improvement in both academic and social situations.
This is really tied into the social outcome factor as when there is only one type of dress needed for school, i. e. uniform, there is a higher instance of affordability amongst families that are simply unable to afford expensive, trendy clothing. The government has also taken an independent and unbiased approach to addressing this issue and it is compelling their overall interpretation of the current school system and it’s tie-in to student safety.
The government believes that the “adoption of school uniform policies can promote school safety, improve discipline, and enhance the learning environment. The potential benefits of school uniforms include: • decreasing violence and theft — even life-threatening situations — among students over designer clothing or expensive sneakers; • helping prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school; • instilling students with discipline; • helping parents and students resist peer pressure;
• helping students concentrate on their school work; and • helping school officials recognize intruders who come to the school (Government) There are currently many communities that have decided to adopt school uniform policies, which include: California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia; and, many large school systems include: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Miami, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle and St.
Louis have school in either a voluntary or mandatory uniform policy in effect. There are many school boards in large and small cities that have adopted school uniform policies which include: Long Beach, California Uniforms are mandatory in all elementary and middle schools. Each school in the district determines the uniform its students will wear. There is an opt-out of the program with parental consent. Currently the size of the program, implemented in 1994, includes 58,500 elementary and middle school students.
Support for disadvantaged students: Each school must develop an assistance plan for families that cannot afford to buy uniforms. In most cases, graduating students either donate or sell used uniforms to needy families. Results: District officials found that in the year following implementation of the school uniform policy, overall school crime decreased 36 percent, fights decreased 51 percent, sex offenses decreased 74 percent, weapons offenses decreased 50 percent, assault and battery offenses decreased 34 percent, and vandalism decreased 18 percent.
Less than one percent of the students have elected to opt out of the uniform policy. Dick Van Der Laan of the Long Beach Unified School District explained, “We can’t attribute the improvement exclusively to school uniforms, but we think it’s more than coincidental. ” According to Long Beach Police Chief William Ellis, “Schools have fewer reasons to call the police. There’s less conflict among students. Students concentrate more on education, not on whose wearing $100 shoes or gang attire. ” Richmond, Virginia
This voluntary uniform policy at Maymont Elementary School for the Arts and Humanities was implemented in 1994 with approximately 262 elementary school students enrolled. Support for disadvantaged students: Responding to parent concerns about the cost of uniforms, the school sought community financial support for the uniform program. Largely as a result of financial donations from businesses and other community leaders, the percentage of students wearing uniforms rose from 30 percent in 1994-95, the first year of the program, to 85 percent during the current year.
Results: Maymont principal Sylvia Richardson identifies many benefits of the uniform program, including improved behavior, an increase in attendance rates and higher student achievement. In the examples shown above, both mandatory and voluntary uniform policies have proven there is a correlation between violent behavior and school uniform policies and there are many variations of the mandatory school uniform policy which can be initiated between the school, the parent and the student. Carl A.
Cohn writes that within the Long Beach school system, upon instituting a mandatory school uniform policy over two years prior, “much of the public school educational establishment reacted skeptically. The school board was told by permissive parents, civil liberties interest groups, timid legislators, and a biased news media that they would not let it happen. The school board initiated this program over 1 ? years ago with a 99 percent compliance rate in the program and a substantial decrease in school crime” (Cohn). Conclusion
Either being in favor or not in favor of mandatory school uniforms is a moot point as it is generally those who simply don’t like to have their children conform to a mandatory policy or not, and, not for concrete and convincing reasons that wearing a school uniform decreases their children’s aptitude for learning, decreases their social status, or, even decreases their child’s freedom of expression. Albeit some students, especially those in the higher grade levels often rebel by girls pulling their skirts up above the regulated skirt length, this, is in no way a reflection on safety in school.
One piece of evidence that is hard to refute is that studies have found “that due to increased prevalence of school violence, one in five public school students feels less eager to go to school every day, one in seven feels less inclined to pay attention to learning in school, and one in 10 stays home from school or cuts class. In unsafe school environments, teachers cannot teach to their maximum potential, and students cannot learn to their full capability” (Everett and Price).
Paliokas and Rist note that “for many individuals, the appeal of mandatory school uniforms is based on conventional wisdom and an intuitive belief that increased structure results in improved child behavior. Nevertheless, there is not much empirical data to support a cause-and-effect relationship between school uniforms and violence”. Simply put, there are other variables which may, in fact, be a direct or indirect contributor to declines in levels of violence with or without school uniform policies.
Paliokas and Rist “posed several questions that must first be answered before declines in school violence can be specifically attributed to the implementation of school uniform programs: a) was the implementation of the uniform policy only one aspect of a comprehensive safety plan that included heightened security and stricter rules? b) were local community-policing programs implemented at the same time? c) was the trend of violence in the school at its peak and ready to decline? d) was there an analysis of the trends of violence within that specific school or school district?
e) were the decreases in school violence attributed to the Hawthorne Effect in which short-term attention to and visibility of a problem caused the decline? and, finally f) was parental involvement a crucial factor in the reduction of violence? ” (Paliokis and Rist). A large problem with the debate over school uniform policies and putting the emphasis on if implementing said policy was, in fact, in direct relation to curbing school violence is that although many school districts were privy to reduction in violence related to students, could there in fact be mitigating factors relative to the reduction.
There is a need to look to finding empirical evidence in support of a mandatory uniform policy through the gathering of a variety of independent studies including: 1) Investigate parent, teacher, and student perceptions regarding school uniforms and violence prevention. 2) Trend analyses to determine whether any decline in violence represents true change or predictable change in trend within the school and/or school district. 3) Must be statistically control for possible intervening variables associated with violence reduction to determine cause-and-effect relationships between school uniforms and violence reduction.
4) Compare the prevalence of violence in schools mandating uniforms with schools mandating dress codes. 5) Obtain data from both experimental groups (those required to wear uniforms) and control groups (those not required to wear uniforms). 6) Examination of how schools mandating uniforms address the issue of providing school uniforms to low-income families. 7) Focus on identifying the means to adequately evaluate the effect of mandatory uniform programs on the prevalence of school violence (Paliokas and Rist)
Works Cited Paliokas KL, Rist RC. Do They Reduce Violence — Or Just Make Us Feel Better? Online. http://www. edweek. org/we/vol-15/28rist. h15. April 3, 1996. Cohn CA. Mandatory school uniforms: Long Beach’s pioneering experience finds safety and economic benefits. School Admin. 1996; 53(2):22-25. King, K. A. Should school uniforms be mandated in elementary school? 1998. Online http://danenet. wicip. org/ncs/forumuniformseval. htm PSParents. net. Pros of Mandatory School Uniforms.
Online at http://psparents. net/ in_support. htm United States Government. School Uniforms: Where They Are and Why They Work? Online http://www. ed. gov/updates/uniforms. html American Psychological Association. Violence and Youth: Psychology’s Response, Volume 1: Summary Report of the American Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 1993:42. Callahan CM, Rivara FP. Urban high school youth and handguns. JAMA. 1992;267:3038-3032.