By Amanda Roschli
Perhaps the term ‘Dressed for Success’ applies to the school uniform policy. The long-standing tradition of students wearing school uniforms exists primarily in the private and independent school community. It is often argued that uniforms create a sense of school pride and belonging, emphasize learning and discipline rather than appearance, eliminate stress over piecing together an outfit each morning, and reduce competition and insecurity among students in regards to economic disparities. But, what about public schools and uniforms? Throughout the years, many public middle and high schools have implemented dress codes as opposed to assigning a strict uniform policy. The popular arguments against school uniforms range from students’ inability to express their individuality and personality through clothing to the relatively high cost of several sets of uniforms.
According to TODAY, 19% of public school principals reported mandatory uniforms in the 2009-2010 school year, an increase of 12 percent from the previous decade. Public schools in Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas, Phoenix, Seattle, Sacramento, Memphis, Kansas City, and Atlanta have recently made strides to enforce school uniform policies. Interestingly, a quarter of all public elementary schools in the U.S. have a uniform policy. Student resistance is much higher among middle/high school-aged students, making it easier for school officials to require uniforms within the lower schools. The most pressing question remains, do uniforms actually improve learning environments by decreasing violence and emphasizing education rather than appearance.
To put it simply, the data findings are evenly split when it comes to this hot-button topic. Virginia Draa, assistant professor at Youngstown State University, conducted a study using 64 public high schools in Ohio and found that schools with uniform policies improved in attendance, graduation and suspension rates. David Brunsma, assistant professor at University of Missouri, conducted his own study using two educational databases and found that there was no correlation between school uniforms and school safety or academic performance.
Overall, the key element to take away here is that private, independent and public schools have the upper hand in enforcing uniforms for students, but it is up to the parents to decide to send their child to a school that enforces a uniform policy.
Amanda Roschli is a senior Mass Communication major at Towson University. Her special interests include media, sports, writing and advertising.