Should Students in Public Schools Wear Uniforms?
One of the most controversial issues in public school is the school uniforms. In 1996, the issue of school uniforms was bought to the forefront in President Clinton State of the Union address. People argue that uniforms can make schools safer and improve attendance and increase student’s achievement. People opposing school uniforms argue that it has not been proven to work with discipline, attendance or the student’s achievement. The purpose of this research is to find out if school uniforms will work in all elementary public schools. Do the students and their parents want a change in their school district attempting to control many aspects, attendance, academic achievement, self-esteem, safety and violence? Interested in positive changes in the students success and achievement may want to consider school uniform policy in their school district.
Uniforms in public elementary schools can have an impact on the students and on the school system. The students can focus more on their classes rather than social factors that students focus on when there is no school uniform and the dress code is not strict. There is no competition between peers to outdo each other when wearing uniforms. Some parents complain that uniforms are too costly for them, but uniforms are actually more affordable and there are fewer clothes to buy because everyone will be dressed in similar clothing. There are also ways to help low-income families with the cost. The school can set up funding for low income families to help pay for the uniforms for their children in the form of donations, clothing vouchers, and support from the business partners of the communities; this problem can be overcome. The thrift stores and uniform supply houses also reduce the cost for the clothing. These things combined can make it far less costly to purchase standard clothing than to meet the demand for designer clothing worn now. Many private schools have required uniforms for a number of years and now public schools are adopting the school uniform policy. With Long Beach, California being the first large urban school district to enforce uniforms to all students in Kindergarten through eighth grade in 1995. In 1999, New York City enforced uniforms in 70 percent of their schools. In 2000, Philadelphia enforced the uniforms district wide and 60 percent in Miami and 80 percent in Chicago (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006). Since then school uniforms in public schools are becoming increasingly popular across the nation. Several other states have already implemented uniform policies in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Michigan, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, and District of Columbia. Many large public school systems including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle and St. Louis have schools with either voluntary or mandatory uniform policies, mostly in elementary and middle schools (Brunsma, 2006). Advocates believe that the uniform policies have great benefits. They believe that it eliminates conflict over expensive items of clothing and has a business-like atmosphere to the school (Darden, p.36). They also think that the uniforms will make schools safer, improve attendance, and a higher education achievement. By wearing uniforms in school they will be able to identify trespassers and setting a good example for the students who are serious about school work and their studies, and also discourages the activities of gang members and the tensions that result from wearing gang clothing attire (Boutelle, 2008). Opponents feel there is not enough evidence to support the relationship between the uniforms and discipline or uniforms and students achievement. According to Brunsma (2006, p.185), he suggest that uniform policies may only serve as a band-aid in dealing with the problems of schools and may only provide policymakers a way to avoid making the decisions necessary to reform public education. Now the question is, “Would Delaware public elementary schools benefit greatly if this policy were adopted?” Resistance is always a factor when trying to make changes. Some parents and students may not want the school uniforms for a variety of reasons. If the parents and students realize that uniforms will benefit them in the long run they may change their minds. There are many advantages to school uniforms, including academic advantages, social outcomes, behavioral issues, safety and cost of uniforms. Research is needed because elementary schools will benefit more if they had a school uniform policy enforced. Literature Review
School uniforms have been the cause of many jokes and harassment to those who wore them. In the past, public schools considered uniforms old and out dated trends, though recently many public schools are starting to implement and enforce a uniform policy. The implementation of a school uniform policy is important if we are still striving to improve our students. The arguments against them are fading while the positive reasons for promoting school uniforms are gaining ground. Some of the possible benefits are safety, cost, uniformity and violence in academics instead of fashions. According to Boutelle (2008), school uniforms in today’s society “promote school safety and enhance the learning environment, and diminish the clothing completion” (p. 3). School uniforms unify a school and help the blending of the school cultures, instead of separating the students. Along with school uniforms there is a boost in academic performance. With the United States dropping behind other developed nation ranking in at number 18 of 24 (Boutelle, 2007), this is low for a nation that is spending a lot on education every year. Students are losing focus on school and are competing for what the newest fashion or gadget rather than focusing on school these days. With the addition of school uniforms in American society, students can focus more on their classes rather than social factors that students focus on when there is no school uniform and the dress code is not strict. With the addition of school uniforms in public schools students are bonding together helping each other feel like they are accepted and part of a much bigger picture than just them. Everyone wearing uniforms also makes it very easy to recognize people who are not supposed to be there or can make an intruder stand out in a crowd. The Department of Education gave out manuals to all of the nation’s 16,000 school districts with suggestions to make school uniforms mandatory and model programs that are in a few public schools (Brunsma, 119). Reasons for implementing uniforms included: reduce peer pressure, increase school pride, gear focus more to learning, assist in discipline problems, and create a more work-like atmosphere with less distractions and expense. Schools that have significant problems are mostly likely to have school uniforms. Having a good overlap of a zero-tolerance policies and school uniform policies do not need the security guards, metal detectors, sign-in policies, or the limited restroom time (Brunsma, p.51). Many parents are faced with the dilemma of outfitting their children in the latest trends or putting money towards more important things like saving for their children’s college education. Some families are unable to afford the popular named brand clothing that their children desires, which make the children, feel inadequate in school when they are forced to wear lesser brand clothes. Granted, the cost may be a bit more substantial in the beginning, but the uniforms will last longer which means there is less out-of-pocket expense for replacement articles. With uniforms, the parents may only have to purchase two or three sets compared to several pairs of bottoms and tops. Uniforms are more durable and can be washed more frequently compared to regular clothes. This makes them the better option not only for lower income families, but all families in general. Parents claim that uniforms will cost the families more money in the long run because parents will be forced to buy the uniforms and regular clothing for their children to wear when they are not in school. The cost for parents may double that of just buying traditional school clothes. Although this is partly true that parents would be faced making additional purchases for their children, in reality, should still be spending less money. Since uniforms are more durable, the parents only need to buy a limited supply and since the children will only be wearing their regular clothes outside of school, parents will not have to buy as many outfits. Most children wear out their clothes while in school. Since this is not an issue with the uniforms because they are worn during school hours only the traditional street clothes will last longer, hence saving the parents money in the long run. Also without the constant competition in schools, children may not feel the need to have the latest brands and styles as they would if they were wearing the clothes to school on a daily basis around other social classes. There are some objections to having children wear uniforms in school. The most popular one is the price of the uniforms; sometimes they may cost a lot depending on the company from which they are purchased. If the school does not go through a certain company but just asks the parents to buy certain colored shirts and pants, with no form of a logo on them, this would help make the cost of the uniform a lot less. Also, if the parents financially could not afford to buy the uniforms, then the parents would have to show proof of this and file for help with school board, which could provide them with a small grant to be used on the uniforms. In California, parents from low-income families are entitled to financial help and are able to receive assistance in purchasing the uniforms (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006). Lake Forest School District in Delaware does not supplement the cost of the uniforms to low income families but if a child is in need they do go case by case. The school nurse keeps uniforms on stock and the local church also supplies the uniforms (Ms. Lands). Today’s style of uniforms is more relaxed than what they were before. The boys would wear dark slacks, white shirts and a tie and the girls wore a traditional blazer, white blouse and a plaid skirt. Now they can wear khaki pants or blue jeans with a white T-shirt, denim shirt or skirts. The largest manufacture French Toast has more than 4,000 school uniform items (Anderson, 2004). On the FrenchToast.com website short sleeve dress shirts with collar for boys cost $9.98, pants $16.98 and for girls the blouses and skirts are $9.98 and pants are $14.98. If parents could get them on sale they would defiantly save money. French Toast has a “Dollar in Uniform” fundraising event going on right now if the parents order from their website than the school they select will get a five percent cash back. Not only do mandatory uniform policies for public schools offer the potential for higher educational benefits and improved student discipline, school uniforms dissolve social boundaries between classmates. Students are no longer judged based off their appearance but by who they are on the inside. There is no more competition between social classes that these students may have otherwise felt and they work together as a team and share a common pride. All students will feel a sense of belonging. No longer will lower income children be labeled as poor based on their clothing. All children will appear as equals in the classroom and will be treated as such (Viadero, 2005). School violence can be greatly reduced by the use of school uniforms. With kids unable to noticeably tell or distinguish which kids belong to what gangs in school if any at all. Also, with uniforms it’s much harder to tell which kids come are wealthy and which kids come from needy families. This can relieve kids of the stress that social economic status can bring. With uniforms children blend, which helps kids see who the actual person is rather then who or where they came from or what their culture is or background. Stepping into any public school with a normal dress code during lunch is evidence of the different groups in a school including different educational and social statuses. Some school gangs separate themselves by their clothes. At any moment there could be a confrontation between any of these groups and instantly a conflict has started or worse school violence could happen between people. When something happens everything is stopped until the situation gets resolved whether it’s broken up by the school cop, teachers, or resolved between the people it happened between. Some of this can be stopped, as Bill Clinton said in his 1996 State of Union Address “I challenge all our schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship. And if it means that teenager will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniform. In the first year of using school uniform Long Beach, California, the school officials found that suspensions dropped by 28 percent; assault and battery decreased 34 percent fighting decreased 56 percent; sex offenses decreased 74 percent; vandalism decreased 18 percent and school crime decreased 86 percent (Brunsma, p.36). With less violence in the school, more students want to come to school. Therefore more students would be more interested in going to school (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006). RESULTS
The school uniforms maybe a means of improving our efforts to help students in becoming healthier, making them a better citizen in their community and being an interest in our society. Realizing that the success of this policy may depend on each individual school system and their needs, and knowing a school uniform policy is not good for every school is of utmost importance. The studies that have been done have lacked the evidence that supports the school uniforms. Some schools might benefit from a school uniform policy. When adopting a school uniform policy many schools also adopted other new programs at the same time. It was unclear as to what exactly created the successes that were notable in the studies. DISCUSSION
School Uniforms affect schools in a better way, appears that only when the school and community have done research and done their homework. The successful schools first compiled reasons for wanting school uniforms and then decided if they were relevant or not. There were surveys taken of staff, parents and the community to find out what the level of support was for the administration if they had to enforce a school uniform policy. Several steps were conducting and it appeared to work for many school districts. It is important to listen to everyone concerning the adoption of a uniform policy (Brunsma, 2006, p. 116). Slowly moving to give the community time to think about the positives and negatives of their decision is must. When wanting to implement the uniforms the style and nature should be considered as well the school history (McBrayer, p. 126). The students should always be involved in the decision making and choices, but they may not make the final decision. Parents and schools need to decide what is safest and healthiest for all and not just the individual. There were other changes incorporated in the schools at the same time the school uniform policy was adopted. Some examples of the changes that took place with the uniform policy adoptions were; changes in the curriculum, new problems solving curriculums, more teachers in the hallways between classes, and new discipline procedures. Changes are continuous and therefore it is difficult to only rely on one at a time. It is a very difficult job for administrators to develop safe and healthy schools. However, there are times that an administrator may determine a factor in the success of the school’s dress code, no dress code, or uniform policy. Consistency is very important part of keeping the students safe. CONCLUSION
For the support of school uniforms the research of evidence, or the lack thereof, it is recommended that each school districts review the information concerning school uniform policies. Probably what would be best is observing a school that already has uniforms. Members involved should observe a school similar to their own; rural, urban or suburban, size and community standards. Members should also recognize and consider steps taken by other schools when they first enforced the school uniforms. It is very important to learn as much as they can about mistakes that took place at the other schools and consider possible successful alternatives. When putting a school uniform policy into effect everyone involved should have a discussion with the community including the students. Parents, students, administrators, teachers, support staff, and board members are all part of the community and should have a decision in the final decision. In the decision making they need to also discuss the prices of the uniforms and if there is going to be help for the ones who cannot afford paying for them. The future of our society depends on confident, inclusive, and caring people focused on valuing the skills, abilities and talents of all the decision makers. I believe that all students deserve a safe learning environment. School uniforms might be the best solutions to the public elementary schools education needs to stop the competitiveness of clothes and create better learning environments in student’s achievements and positive social outcomes.
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