Are School Uniforms a
Positive or a Negative Thing
Background of the Debate
The introduction of school uniforms for public schools into
the national debate is not a new subject. Private schools
and uniforms have a long history, but not until the 1980’s
has the subject of uniforms in public schools increasingly
became a subject of implementation.
President Clinton endorsed the use of uniforms during his
State of the Union address in January of 1996. Support also
came through a voice vote from the National Association
of Secondary School Principals during their national
conference in February, 1996.
As part of his efforts, the Department of Education
distributed a manual to all of the nation's 16,000 school
districts with suggestions on how to make school uniforms
mandatory and reviews of several 'model' programs
currently in place in our public schools, and since 1996
more than seven states have adopted uniform policies.
In many countries, it is very common to wear school uniforms. Some
of these include Britain, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore,
Hong Kong, South Africa and many other African countries. Uniform
is also required at almost all schools in Japan.
In other countries, particularly in continental Europe, the USA and
Canada, uniform is very rare in state-funded schools, although
private schools may have one.
Debates about school uniform have been going on for decades in
different countries and districts, but during the 1990s state schools in
the USA began to adopt uniforms.
At first uniform rules were seen as a way of stopping children
dressing in gang colors in troubled urban areas. Later, claims that
introducing uniform leads to better discipline and educational results
encouraged other school districts and schools to make a change.
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have been in favor of
Other countries have picked up on this trend - for example, there
has been talk of making German children wear uniforms. This topic
looks at a very large number of arguments about uniforms.
Pros for Having Uniforms
Uniforms make it easy to identify kids who belong in
the school and those who don’t.
They could save parents money and time when
getting ready for school in the morning.
Kids don’t get made fun of for the clothes they may
chose to wear to school.
The kid’s social standing would be based more on
individual character and less on their economic
Putting students in conservative clothing discourages
Some students can use their baggier clothing to hide
things they aren’t supposed to have at school.
Some educators believe that students in uniforms are
more likely to focus on academics.
Students are unable to segregate themselves based
on what they wear.
Cons of Having Uniforms
They are expensive and have no use outside
They cut down on allowing the students to be
individuals and can hurt their creative
They can be uncomfortable.
Students might not be exposed to diversity,
and may face shock when they enter the
world after uniforms.
The issue of conformity.
Some experts have found that uniforms do
not improve academics, behavior, or social
In 2007–08, about 18 percent of public school
principals reported that 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.
Also, in 2007–08, approximately 55 percent of public
school principals reported that their school enforced
a strict dress code, an increase from 47 percent in
As of 2009 in the United States, there are 21 states
with public school systems requiring their students to
wear uniforms. A case study from 1999 conducted in
Long Beach, California showed that instituting a
uniform policy greatly reduced violence and other
issues in the school. Crimes, suspensions and sex
offenses were all reduced by at least 90 percent and
vandalism dropped by almost 70 percent.
Schools in 21 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of
Some cities have widespread uniform use in their public schools:
o 95% of New Orleans’ public schools require uniforms
o 85% of Cleveland’s public schools require uniforms
o 80% of Chicago’s public schools require uniforms
o 65% of Boston’s public schools require uniforms
o 60% of Miami’s public schools require uniforms
o 50% of Cincinnati’s public schools require uniforms
A case study of the effects of adopting school uniforms in Long
Beach, CA which appeared in Psychology Today in September,
1999, reported the following effects from the switch to uniforms in
o Overall, the crime rate dropped by 91%
o School suspensions dropped by 90%
o Sex offenses were reduced by 96%
o Incidents of vandalism went down 69%