Is it Time to Wear Uniforms In Public Schools?

The debate on whether public schools should follow suit and have students war uniforms is becoming increasingly popular. There are some excellent pros and cons about this hot topic so our Parents’ Council bounced them around.

Many public school systems are joining ranks with private schools and are implementing school uniforms, as many educators believe that students who wear uniforms perform better academically in school. 

The U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences stated that in 2007–08 about 18 percent of public school principals reported their school required students to wear uniforms. In 1999–2000, the percentage of principals who reported that their school required students to wear uniforms was 12 percent.

There are other reasons that experts believe school uniforms will have a positive impact on students, such as improved behavioral and social results, cost savings for families and the simplicity of the hassles many families face when their kids get dressed in the morning for school.

Our Parents’ Council has back to school on their mind lately (sorry!), so they enjoyed sharing their views on this heated debate about uniforms that is spreading quickly across the country.

Pros for School Uniforms in Public Schools

Educators, parents and students cite the following reasons in favor of school uniforms:

  • School uniforms improve academic performance because they create an equal and orderly atmosphere. They reduce distractions imposed by clothing items.
  • School uniforms prevent the formation of cliques or gangs and reduce the influence of peer pressure, all based on the physical appearance of students.
  • School uniforms remove the socio-economic hierarchy among students that can be reflected in their choice of clothingm – how much a garment cost, top brand names or where it was bought.
  • School uniforms help students avoid the occurrence of complex syndromes (inferiority and superiority). Uniforms will help avoid silly psychological issues. Students will not be known by what they wear, but by how they perform.
  • School uniforms build a sense of ambassadorship and loyalty in the students, due to the fact that all the students will be dressing in similar attire which will be unique to the school so that the students will develop a sense of ambassadorship and loyalty to the school.
  • According to the School Administrator Publication, along with school-reported statistics, the mandate of uniforms on campuses has reduced tardiness, skipped classes, suspensions and discipline referrals. 
  • School uniforms at school can reduce the prevalence of violence at public schools. Outsiders who do not belong on campus are easily identified and, thus, do not pose a great threat to the students. 

Cons of School Uniforms in our Public Schools

Educators, parents, and students also share the following sound reasons why uniforms are not the best idea: 

  • School uniform policies infringe on parents’ and students’ rights to freedom of expression.
  • School uniforms can get boring and mundane. Wearing the same clothes and same color every day can get very boring. The absence of different types of apparel and colors in the surrounding could prove to be a deficit to students rather than an asset.
  • Wearing school uniforms may give students the impression that conformity is the way to prevent conflict, and this is not necessarily an appropriate message for school districts to send.
  • School uniforms could lower the bar for personality development and self discovery. In order to know your place in the world around you, you need to see how you fit in it. As such a school uniform could be a hurdle in the path of a student’s creativity and self discovery.
  • School uniforms can be ugly and/or unflattering. Having to wear something that a student doesn’t feel good wearing can contribute to a poor self-image.

The Council’s Take

The exchange of comments on the topic of school uniforms was spirited at times, but the majority of our members were not in favor of implementing them in our public schools.

Both Michelle Cournoyer Girasole and Sue Burnett Pullyblank liked the idea of the simplicity of school uniforms and how it would eliminate the early morning craziness of what to wear, but in the end they both felt strongly that students should be able to choose their own clothing because it helps to bring out individual personalities.  In addition, they felt that uniforms would become an added expense (they aren’t cheap!) and the thoughts of ironing those khaki pants and pleated skirts every day were the final straws to break the deal. Three other members were in total agreement. “Just say no to school uniforms!”

There were a couple of us that were actually in favor of uniforms, me being one of them, and my reason is all about the simplicity factor.  As the mom of eight kids in grades kindergarten through college I would be happy to iron uniforms every morning if it meant I didn’t have to go shopping with my teenage daughters for everyday wear! Okay, so that’s not always so bad, but if I can find ways to simplify our household routine, I’m all for them.  They can express themselves between the hours of 4 p.m. until bedtime and during the weekends, holidays and vacations.

The arguments are best summed up by Dr. Alan Hilfer, a senior child and adolescent psychologist: “Uniforms do eliminate competition, pressure, and assaults perpetuated by older kids on younger kids for their sneakers and possessions. They also allow some kids to focus better, especially in the lower grades, however, clothes are a source of expression for children, and as kids get older, they become increasingly resentful of uniforms.”  

Understanding what elements are most important for you and your child will help you determine if school uniforms are a right fit.

So how would you feel about the North Kingstown School district requiring students to wear school uniforms?  Please share your thoughts here in the comment section.  If you would like to join our Parents’ Council or have a question you’d like answered in a future column, we’d love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at CB091987@aol.com or to our editor, Samantha Turner at Samantha.Turner@patch.com

Midlife Momma August 10, 2011 at 07:30 PM
YEA!! Every kid should wear a uniform. The Pros out number the cons-everyone looks as terrible as you do when you wear a uniform, and everyone's "individual creativity" is just as squashed as yours is for the 6 or so hours that they are at school. The issue of clothes and styles and revealing shirts, underware hanging out, etc... is taken off the table and leaves everyone more energy to focus on what is being taught ....I wore a hideous polyester green (or UPS-man brown) uniform in High School-loved not having to think about what I was going to wear or what "the popular" or "rich kids" would be wearing. My son wore a uniform in middle and HS-loved it as a parent because there was no argument about what was appropriate, clean, etc....There were "tag days" were they could wear their own clothes about 1 time a month-so they could flaunt their style (or lack there of...) a few times a year..LOL There was a sense of unity and pride in the building and the teachers/staff dressed up as well. Just over all a better atmosphere.... I say 'YES" to the public school uniform.....
MeanE August 12, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I am all for school uniforms. However, I feel that all of the clothes in the uniform should have to be made in the USA! Create a better atmosphere for learning and create jobs as well!
Cheryl Butler August 13, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Mean E----I so agree! Great point!!! :)
Cheryl Butler August 13, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Applause! Applause!!!! Midlife Momma-----this Midlife Mama is with you! Thanks for commenting! :)
Edith Thompson August 14, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Cheryl- nicely done piece showing very clearly the two sides of this debate. When assigning a persuasive essay, I find this to be a topic that generates a strong thesis statement. I am undecided, as I don't like being the clothing police; I just want to be the writing and grammar police:::)))
Cheryl Butler August 14, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Thanks, Edie! I think being the fashion police is far worse than cleaning toilets!!! ha ha
seanna marie deering November 03, 2012 at 08:24 PM
hi im seanna a 13 year old in davisville middle and i strongly agree with a dressing school uniforms i think it will make our schools a better place to telll some of our kids to start paying attention and not having all these distractions on the ways some kids dress! and that will increase alot of the kids grades!
joan greene November 04, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Nice job Seanna!!! It is so nice to see a teenager interested in topics and contributing their opinion in such a. respectful manner


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