School Uniforms

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The debate over mandatory school uniforms is a raging topic in our country. Proponents of school uniforms conclude that there are many potential benefits to mandatory school uniforms, while opponents heartily challenge their claims. Potential benefits include: socioeconomic equalization, reduction in student violence and theft, restriction of gang activity, and improved focus in classrooms. Although these benefits would vastly improve our public education system, there is no clear evidence that school uniforms improve any of the problem areas above. Mandatory uniforms would actually potentially cause problems, such as a violation of freedom of expression, and not allowing our youth to become independent and self-confident.

In 1996 President Bill Clinton stated his approval of school uniforms in his inaugural speech and a widespread “reform movement” began with a considerable rise in mandatory uniform policies. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that prior to his speech only 0.75% of schools in the U.S. required uniforms. After his speech 3% of schools required uniforms. Although Clinton’s speech started a wave of change in our countries educational system, it seems that his proposal was only an overly simplistic answer to fixing the crisis gripping our public school systems today.

One of the first major case studies completed was from a sample of students at 56 elementary and 14 middle schools in Long Beach, California from 1993 to 1994. The study concluded that overall the crime rate dropped 91%, sexual offenses were reduced by 96%, and incidents of vandalism went down 69%. The huge reduction in problem areas led school officials to believe that improvements were solely attributed to the new uniform policy, however, there is a gray area not addressed in their conclusion. Nowhere in the study is there an assessment of why these reductions took place, or what variables influenced these behavioral changes. Another flaw is the study did...
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