England was the first nation to require their students to wear uniforms during the 16th century. These uniforms were not for the rich, but instead were used to distinguish the poor children from the other children. “It wasn't until 300 years later that students who attended the better English public schools began wearing uniforms. Once this became the norm, it blossomed into an obsession, as well as a way to effect social and cultural control over the students (ehow.com).”
Up until recently, school uniforms were mainly used by “parochial and private schools, which have a long history of using school uniforms to project an atmosphere of uniformity, pride, loyalty, and equality among the student population (communityonline.com).” The debate on uniforms in public schools began in the 1980s. During this time public schools were compared unfavorably to the Catholic schools. Some public schools decided to adopt a uniform policy like the private schools in hope that they would benefit just as the Catholic schools did. Cherry Hill Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland, was the first public school to implement school uniforms in 1987.
School uniforms can range from formal to informal. Some schools have gone along the lines of Catholic schools choosing to have their students wear nice pants with white shirts for boys and skirts or jumpers and shirts for girls. Most public schools are choosing to go the more informal or casual route with khaki or jeans for the bottom and knit shirts in a variety of colors. Here in Hawaii many public schools have uniform t-shirts in a variety of styles and allow the students to wear the bottoms they choose. Although students are able to wear their own bottoms, schools have strict dress code policies for the students to follow.
In 1996, President Clinton instructed the Federal Education Department to distribute manuals to all school districts informing them on how they are able to legally enforce school uniform policies. He stated in his State of the Union speech: “If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to require school uniforms (nytimes.com).” President Clintons support for school uniforms stemmed directly from Jackie Robinson Academy in Long Beach, California, which made it a requirement for all 58,500 of their students to wear uniforms. Just one year after implementing their uniform policy school crime had decreased by 36 percent.
Although the government supports school uniforms, many students, parents, and schools do not have the same views. During the 1999- 2000 school year it was reported that 12% of schools required their students to wear uniforms. By the 2007-2008 school year that number had increased to 18%. While 55% reported to enforce a strict dress code. With so many people on both sides of the argument on school uniforms, it is hard for schools to implement a uniform policy.
When it comes to the question on whether or not school uniforms improve discipline and motivation, I believe it does. I personally have gone to schools that require uniforms, both public and private. Uniforms increase school safety and academic performance. I believe that it promotes creativity and individuality and is cost efficient.
Gang violence is a major problem in urban areas and through the implement of school uniforms it prevents students from being able to wear gang affiliated clothing and also makes it easier for school authorities to identify their students and also non- students. Uniforms also reduce the amount of theft on clothing and shoes since all students wear the same clothes. That is mainly reliant on whether or not the schools participate in full school uniforms such as shirt, pants, and shoes or simply a t-shirt. If the schools choose to...