Last updated on: 1/30/2017 9:06:16 AM PST
Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms?



Source: Challen Stephens, "Huntsville City Schools Consider School Uniforms, Survey Parents through Robocalls," blog.al.com, Aug. 27, 2010



PRO (yes)

Bill O'Chee, Australian politician, in a Jan. 10, 2017 article, "Why School Uniforms Are as Important as Student Laptops," available at theage.com.au, stated:

"[D]itching school uniforms would not only cost parents more money, and would be a bad idea all around. In fact, school uniforms are as important as student laptops in the education experience...

Interestingly, what most excites children going to school for the first time is usually their uniform. Every five-year-old can appreciate wearing a school uniform is a powerful rite of passage, and an equally powerful statement of belonging.

This is no less true of high school students. Quite frankly, we spend far too much time pandering to a generation for whom individuality is a temper tantrum and a Facebook post short of an overblown sense of entitlement.

We need to spend more time emphasising the value of community, and how communities can only function if everyone gives up some of their own entitlement for the good of others."

Jan. 10, 2017 - Bill O'Chee 



Keith Metcalfe, Deputy Head Master Elect at Harrow School in the United Kingdom, in a Mar. 9, 2016 article, "Should We Get Rid of School Uniform?," available at telegraph.co.uk, stated:

"Harrow's distinctive uniform is not simply an exercise in conformity, but a connection to the rich history of the school and a symbol of its distinguished community… These elements make boys feel that they belong to something bigger than themselves. The simple act of putting on a uniform makes every day an occasion, and indicates a readiness for the day ahead…

But boys at Harrow do not wear uniform simply for the sake of tradition, to feel they belong, or even to prepare them mentally to study.

Like so many things at Harrow, our uniform is a great leveller. No two Harrovians are the same: some live in London, others much further afield in the UK or overseas; a number come from established Harrow families, others have no experience of public schooling; many excel in sport or the arts, while others are incredibly strong academically.

Whatever they bring to the Hill, they all come together on equal footing, to be identified and judged by their character and contribution alone."

Mar. 9, 2016 - Keith Metcalfe 



French Toast Official School Wear, a school uniform supplier, stated in its article titled "Why School Uniforms?," available at FrenchToast.com (accessed Aug. 29, 2014):

"It's time to eliminate from schools the status and respect many students give to clothing labels and price tags. Student attention needs to return to learning in the classroom, rather than how they look when they are in that classroom. Mandated uniforms can serve to shift the emphasis from competition back to academic performance and personal achievement...

Uniforms create a feeling of oneness and belonging. Everyone can be on the same team. As on athletic teams, uniforms are worn for immediate identification and to inspire a feeling of 'oneness.' Put on your team uniform and you suddenly belong. A sense of loyalty emerges from inside, as does an extra effort to perform at the student's best...

Uniforms add measures of safety in identical dress. Gang identification is obscured. Group violence and theft are dissipated... Children are no longer identified by their 'colors.' Uniform dress alleviated the feelings of imminent danger for students who were afraid they might inadvertently dress in gang colors...

Uniforms also raise students' expectations of themselves. When dressed neatly and seriously, students tend to behave seriously. Often teachers find calmer, more polite, more attentive students. Students seem to feel more confident in the way they look, and so they have more confidence in themselves..."

Aug. 29, 2014 - French Toast Official School Wear 



Alun Jones, President of the Girls’ School Association and Principal of St Gabriel’s Independent Day School in the United Kingdom, in a Nov. 22, 2015 article, "Skirts at Top Private Girls' School Become Longer as Teachers Try to Combat Bullying," available at telegraph.co.uk, stated:

"Uniforms are a very important part of the school's identity.

It brings so many benefits in terms of moral, discipline and results because it is a leveller of children of all backgrounds. The uniform is exactly that - a uniform - rather than a fashion statement.

We have a styling of uniforms for girls that's more comfortable, practical and more suited for a girl's shape. There is a move in schools for girls' skirts to be kept at a decent level. Some schools are moving to mid-calf-length skirts to reflect the workplace and the type of dress these girls will be required to wear in adult life.

Fashion and image are very important. These are highly emotional subjects for girls. And as far as girls are concerned it is very important that they don't have to give in to these sort of pressures so they actually welcome [wearing a uniform].

They like to look smart - which is one of the huge benefits of a uniform - and that also means that they don't have to rise to stereotypical images and behaviours and therefore can be themselves."

Nov. 22, 2015 - Alun Jones 



Chloe Spencer, a high school student at Neale-Wade Academy in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, stated in her Oct. 3, 2013 blog post titled "What's the Point of School Uniform?," published on theguardian.com:

"Wearing a uniform is a badge of pride, creates an identity for a school and is an important part of being a school student... A school uniform teaches students to dress smartly and take pride in their appearance...

Perhaps most importantly, a uniform means students don't have to worry about peer pressure when it comes to their clothes. When everyone is dressed the same, worrying about what you look like isn't so important. There is no competition about being dressed in the latest trend, which would put a great deal of financial pressure on students and parents. Potential bullies have one less target for their insults; it's hard to make fun of what someone is wearing when you're dressed exactly the same...

My uniform might not be what I would wear in my own time, but it gives me a sense of belonging, takes away the pressure of what to wear and deters the bullies. School uniform isn't fashionable, but that's exactly why I think it should be here to stay."

Oct. 3, 2013 - Chloe Spencer 



Bill Clinton, JD, 42nd President of the United States, stated in his Feb. 24, 1996 radio address, available at the American Presidency Project website:

"I believe we should give strong support to school districts that decide to require young students to wear school uniforms. We've all seen the tragic headlines screaming of the death of a teenager who was killed for a pair of sneakers or jewelry or a designer jacket. In Detroit, a 15-year-old boy was shot for his $86 basketball shoes. In Fort Lauderdale, a 15-year-old student was robbed of his jewelry. Just this past December in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a 17-year-old honor student was killed at a bus stop, caught in the crossfire during the robbery of another student's designer jacket.

School uniforms are one step that may be able to help break this cycle of violence, truancy, and disorder by helping young students to understand that what really counts is what kind of people they are, what's on the inside, to remember that what they're doing at school is working, not showing off their own clothes or envying another student's clothes...

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. If it means that the schoolrooms will be more orderly, more disciplined, and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside instead of what they're wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms."

Feb. 24, 1996 - Bill Clinton, JD 



Belinda Luscombe, Editor-at-Large at TIME magazine, stated in her Mar. 25, 2014 article titled "How Ugly School Uniforms Will Save Education," published on Time.com:

"[School uniforms] are great levelers. With a strategically chosen uniform, body type disappears. And it’s hard to distinguish who is cool and who is not. It’s harder to discern the differences in socio-economic background. Nobody wants any item of clothing that the other is wearing; all are equally undesirable, so thieving and general adolescent covetousness are reduced...

A uniform is not the same thing as a dress code... No endless back and forth between child, parents and school. Moreover, when a kid’s in uniform, he or she sticks out like a sore thumb. The local community knows where that kid belongs. It’s harder for kids to skip school or get into trouble outside school. They’re too easily spotted...

What do bridesmaids, military personnel and emergency service workers have in common? They all have to wear what they’re given without whining, no matter how puffy the sleeves or hideous the shoes. Oh yeah, and they also are there to serve somebody else. Nothing says 'this is not just about you,' more than an ugly uniform. And where else could we learn a lesson in sacrifice and serving the common good with so little actual sacrifice?..."

Mar. 25, 2014 - Belinda Luscombe 



Karin Polacheck, PhD, former Board President of the Long Beach Unified School District, wrote in her letter to the editor titled "Uniforms Help Solve Many School problems," published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Sep. 28, 1995:

"Uniforms improve discipline, self-esteem and self-respect. They focus attention upon learning and away from such distractions as fashion competition and gang intimidation. Requiring uniforms enhances school security by permitting identification of non-students who try to enter the campus. Weapons have been concealed in jumpsuits, overcoats, and baggy gang clothing.

Uniforms help to create unity amid diversity by easing ethnic and cultural tensions and encouraging values of tolerance and civility. Uniforms also bridge differences between students and families of widely disparate income levels. Students from modest economic backgrounds are often the target of exclusion or ridicule on account of their dress. Even from the earliest grades, children feel the pressure to conform to idealized standards of dress, which may be beyond their family's means. Uniforms eliminate this pressure and allow the attention of students to be directed to learning and growing.

Affordable school uniforms can reduce clothing costs substantially. The average clothing cost per child in schools with a student uniform is markedly less than that in schools without uniforms...

Chosen by each school, school uniforms provide students with a school identity, strengthen school and individual spirit and pride -- not unlike the way an athletic team uniform builds team identity, morale and self-esteem. Instead of feeling alienated or disconnected, students enjoy the sense of belonging that school uniforms bring."

Sep. 28, 1995 - Karin Polacheck, PhD 



Amelia Jimenez, former student at Hershey High School (Hershey, PA), wrote in her May 31, 2009 op-ed titled "The Case for High School Uniforms," published on PennLive.com:

"Contrary to popular belief, uniforms do not stop students from being themselves. Uniforms do not silence voices. Students can wear a variety of expressive items, such as buttons or jewelry...

Also, uniforms are more practical than regular clothes... Students who wear uniforms during the week do not need a lot of leisure clothes, which can lower clothing costs.

It is also worth noting that uniforms do not have to be expensive, they can simply be particular pants and sweaters. If low-income families still cannot afford uniforms, there are many ways to help them.

Districts, school parents, graduates as well as community and business leaders have worked together to donate or finance uniforms...

Yet another benefit of uniforms is that they teach students to dress according to guidelines. Some believe that uniforms do not prepare students for the real world in which people wear whatever they want. However, most workplaces have uniforms or dress codes.

Also, uniforms increase student safety. They prevent thefts because no one's clothes are more valuable. Moreover, intruders can be easily sighted. It is easier for field-trip chaperones to know for which students they are responsible."

May 31, 2009 - Amelia Jimenez 



CON (no)

Will Galloway, Chairman of the South Carolina Teenage Republicans, in a Jan. 5, 2017 article, "Will Galloway: Just Say No to School Uniforms," available at fitsnews.com, stated:

"Rather than promote an orderly and disciplined student environment, mandatory uniforms would cause massive student disobedience and take away valuable instruction time. If one or two students wear something inappropriate, administration will handle it. The student in question will change, be disciplined, and return to class without disrupting the school day. [South Carolina] Rep. McKnight's [mandatory uniform] policy would trigger massive backlash from students, and would cost countless hours of classroom instruction. Public schools already have dress codes which ban provocative, revealing, gang-affiliated, and hateful clothing, which addresses Rep. McKnight's concerns in introducing the bill.

Second, the bill would not mask income disparities, it would showcase them. The bill says that it would provide funding for at least five uniforms for a student who cannot afford one, depending on the availability of funding.

What happens when this funding is not available anymore? And why would this be the best use of money on the school system? Wouldn’t it be better to fix the crippling inequality of schools along the I-95 corridor? Or invest in vocational training for our students? Rather than attempting to disguise poverty, shouldn’t we attempt to solve it and help these students and their families rise out of poverty?"

Jan. 5, 2017 - Will Galloway 



Rob O’Donnell, President of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, as quoted in a Feb. 8, 2016 article by Peter McGuire, "No Skirting the School Uniform Debate," available at irishtimes.com, stated:

"When we ask student councils about the issues of concern to them, this often comes up. It's even more of a concern in mixed schools where, every day, girls see their male classmates come to school in trousers… Some girls really, really hate – absolutely hate – to wear skirts. It is a dated system. In any other walk of life, we wouldn't dream of telling girls that they have to wear a skirt. So why is it acceptable to inflict it on them at school?

…We've seen situations in coeducational schools whereby the girls are allowed to dye their hair a natural colour, but the boys are not allowed at all. How a young person appears makes no difference whatsoever to their education… Schools should be encouraging free thought and self-expression, not suppressing it."

Feb. 8, 2016 - Rob O'Donnell 



Nancy E. Bailey, PhD, education author and activist, wrote in her 2013 book Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students:

"Students should learn to make informed decisions about the clothes they wear...

Bullying occurs whether students wear uniforms or not. The root cause of bullying should be addressed. Teens should be able to develop self-expression and their personal identity. Instead, they might resort to unconventional piercings and tattoos... [S]chool uniforms encourage followers not leaders. The practice discourages independent thinkers. This follower mentality could extend into adulthood...

[T]he push for students to wear uniforms to improve behavior lacks validity and seems ill-advised for a democratic public school system. Today's school uniforms seem more a punitive measure meant to deny students their right to freedom of expression and individuality. Public schools can still have dress codes without resorting to mandatory uniforms. There are much better goals to address safety and overall school climate."

2013 - Nancy E. Bailey, PhD 



Alistair Browlow, Co-Principal of Rochester Independent School in the United Kingdom, in a Mar. 9, 2016 article, "Should We Get Rid of School Uniform?," available at telegraph.co.uk, stated:

"Some English schools (and politicians) see uniform as a quick fix for a range of problems. However, serious discipline and academic issues are unlikely to be solved by nostalgically resurrecting the blazer or draconian decrees issued from the headmaster's study regarding skirt length.

Students flourish when they're treated as free-range individuals, rather than battery-hen units that must conform. Examples from around the world show that high standards of discipline, team spirit and attainment are not synonymous with school uniform.

Importantly, the lack of uniform is widely debated among our students – they're aware of the danger of defining individuality in terms of clothing, and of issues such as body image and self esteem. As media savvy individuals they are suspicious of attempts by some schools to use uniform as part of their corporate identity and brand."

Mar. 9, 2016 - Alistair Brownlow, MPhil 



Linne Hoofnagle, former staff writer for Tiger Hi-Line, the student newspaper at Cedar Falls High School (Cedar Falls, IA), wrote in her Dec. 4, 2012 article titled "Uniforms Limit Number of Outlets for Creativity and Self-Expression," available on the Tiger Hi-Line website:

"[T]he most obvious point against uniforms is that they restrict self-expression. We live in a dynamic society, full of unique characters that make our world a spontaneous one. Cutting that off at a young age only stifles creativity and encourages conformity. We want to encourage our children to be expressive and to think outside the box. Forcing them to wear ugly gray sweater vests and starched white shirts is not the way to do that.

The gender-specific uniform guidelines often reinforce the gender binary in the school environment. The separation between females and males will only increase. If uniforms were all-encompassing and non-gender specific, this problem would not exist. However, uniforms are not all-encompassing. There are limited choices for males and limited choices for females. Though females can wear uniform pants, men are not allowed to wear uniform jumpers. Conflict would arise if a male attempted to wear the specified 'female' attire. This poses problems to LGBT progress in school environments...

[W]here did we get the idea that bullying and stereotypes would magically disappear if we implemented a strict uniform? People will not stop bullying each other based on appearance, which manifests itself in ways besides clothing. If we convince ourselves that placing limits on clothing choices will eliminate school bullying, we are kidding ourselves."

Dec. 4, 2012 - Linne Hoofnagle 



David L. Brunsma, PhD, Professor of Sociology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), wrote in his 2004 book titled The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us about American Education: A Symbolic Crusade:

"The 'evidence' that has been invoked throughout this uniform movement has been... generalization after generalization from an ever-flowing stream of anecdote, with little to no critical thinking, and certainly no empirical investigation. The movement can be categorized as one of anecdote versus evidence, fear versus rationality, the status quo versus social and educational change...

It should be clear by now that uniform policies are not effective in our public schools. ...[S]chool uniforms, as a policy and strategy, do not play a role in producing more parental involvement, increased preparedness, positive approaches toward learning, pro-school attitudes, a heightened feeling of school unity and safety, or positive school climates. Therefore, such a policy should not be discussed as increasing the educational atmosphere at any level of schooling."


2004 - David L. Brunsma, PhD 



The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada stated in its Dec. 19, 2008 article titled, "Four Reasons Public Schools Should Think Twice before Instituting School Uniform Policies," available at aclunv.org:

"Because students' self-expression on clothing generally does not disrupt class, uniforms are an inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy that requires school officials to be worried about what everyone is wearing. Instead, school officials should only be concerned with clothing that is actually disruptive – which both dress codes and simple common sense are more than adequate to handle...

In conflict with the First Amendment, school uniform policies create... an environment of sterilized uniformity scrubbed of the diversity so prized by our founding fathers. Perhaps more importantly, the façade of homogeneity in no way reflects the real world that students will enter immediately upon graduation from high school... Forcing students to dress and look alike flies in the face of the diversity of thought and rugged individualism that are the bedrock of our nation and our Constitution...

[A]llowing students to choose their clothing is an empowering message from the schools that a student is a maturing person who is entitled to the most basic self-determination. In a freer learning environment, students begin with a sense of self-worth – rather than as identical captives without options. Giving kids a choice to express themselves not only acknowledges their individuality but creates the possibility for a relationship of mutual respect. So long as this parade of choices does not interrupt the school day, schools should be interested in nurturing, rather than standardizing, student expression."

Dec. 19, 2008 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada 



Alfie Kohn, MA, education activist and author, stated in his Oct. 2, 1996 article for the Boston Globe titled "The Trouble with School Uniforms," available at AlfieKohn.org:

"The appeal of school uniforms is based less on the likelihood of realizing any long-term benefits than on the nostalgic yearning for a simpler and less dangerous age.  To imagine that telling students what to wear will bring back those days is to engage in wishful, if not fuzzy, thinking...

If we want students to grow into critical thinkers and ethical people, then we have to aim higher than mere conformity.  Children, after all, learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.  If we want them to take responsibility for their behavior, then we have to give them responsibilities...

Thus, if T-shirts contain slogans that offend us, or gang colors threaten to be inflammatory, school administrators might invite students to participate in analyzing the problem and constructing a solution.  Apart from being more respectful, this approach is also more effective over the long run (and better preparation for life in a democratic society), than issuing a decree ('Wear this')...

Is it even reasonable to expect uniforms to solve the problems for which they are recommended?  Can violence be reduced by borrowing an idea from the military?...

Complex problems will not disappear just because we demand that students wear what we tell them.  Relying on power to induce conformity rarely produces lasting solutions."

Oct. 2, 1996 - Alfie Kohn, MA 



The St. Petersburg Times stated in its July 23, 1999 editorial titled "Uniform Policy Goes Too Far," available at SPTimes.com:

"[M]andatory school uniforms... give school officials extraordinary power over what should be a parental prerogative, without any firm evidence that uniforms enhance learning or discipline...

Schools have a dual responsibility to educate students and to develop productive, creative individuals who will grow up to lead the nation and bring innovation to our marketplace. ...[I]t's hard to be an individual when the system punishes anything but conformity."

[Editor's Note: St. Petersburg Times changed its name to Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 1, 2012. The editorial quoted above is no longer available on SPTimes.com and has not yet been made available on TampaBay.com as of Sep. 5, 2014.)

July 23, 1999 - St. Petersburg Times 



Alicia Thomas, former student at Lower Dauphin High School (Hummelstown, PA), wrote in her May 31, 2009 op-ed titled "The Case against High School Uniforms," published on PennLive.com:

"While uniforms do assuage the best-clothes competition, they create a new and more painful contest: the best-body competition. When every student is wearing the same uniform, everyone fills it out differently.

They can expect to be ridiculed for not looking as fantastic in their uniforms as some of the better-looking students. And this could be catastrophic for anyone with a less-than-perfect image of themselves... There's also the problem of students' squelched individuality.

Schools spend so much time trying to keep their students under control that they end up squashing the sparks that some of those kids were born with...

Uniforms jeopardize the ability of America's youth to express themselves, to become the people that they want to be.

[T]he way that students dress should be their own choice, not their teachers."

May 31, 2009 - Alicia Thomas