No Uniforms 1 No Uniforms Student name Class University Professor Current date No Uniforms 2 No Uniforms The debate on school uniforms has been going on for many years and it does not appear to be over yet. There is discussion of school uniforms or standardized dress. Uniforms require specific styles, colors and brands; school districts often select vendors, while standardized dress consists of general styles and colors the district chooses. Brands are not specified, and parents can by clothes from any store” (Smith). Supporters of a school uniform list many reasons why schools do better when students where uniforms. Among these reasons are students concentrate on learning, school safety, reduced gang activities, and equality among students. However, the facts do not support these ideas and statements. First, look at the two types of dress that is being discussed uniforms and standardized dress. The major difference id whom the parents buy the clothes from and if they can select the brands, this refutes the entire plan to create equality among students. There will be preferred expensive brands, which wealthier parents will purchase. Even if the district selects the vendors there will be a range of prices, students will know who paid how much for each item. When uniforms fade or get stained, new ones will need to be purchased and that is additional expense. Luckily, in today’s fashion its hard to tell if it was purchased stained or got that stained naturally. Another issue that has students and parents concerned it the imprinting of the school logo on the shirts. Students state it is wrong to show the school’s logo on the uniform it makes the student feel as if he or she is owned by the school (Letchford, 2006). Interviewing students who are enrolled in uniform only schools discuss the situation the responses vary from uniforms are good to “it often mortifies the student’s image in society” (Letchford, 2006). One such student said that having worn the uniform for 12 years “forced her to feel badly about her image” (Letchford, 2006). Additionally students question what they are No Uniforms 3 learning in school such as the Bill of Rights, yet he will be forced to wear a uniform that stifles his own creativity and freedom of choice. The student Jakob Lange states he will wear the uniform if he has to, but what bothers him is “being taught something un-American in the name of America” (Smith). While school boards and school districts say that students and parents have an input into the dress code plans, students are skeptical. Students feel that the majority of the students are being punished for the poor judgment of a few and (Smith). Most schools have an existing dress code policy. The problem as most students and parents who oppose uniforms see it is that the current policy is not being enforced, so until schools can enforce a policy why keep making changes. Both students and parents cite sagging pants, showing too much chest/belly and short skirts, dresses and shorts as primary dress problems (Light, 2007). If the challenge is to correct those problems then how does a uniform help? Nothing will stop the student from purchasing the uniform in sizes that are too small or too large. Students will still attend school with their pants sagging and their midriff showing whenever possible. Perhaps one of the smartest people interviewed on school uniforms was “15- year-old Tyler Morgan, a freshman at Mishawaka High School, which had a low area graduation rate of 59 percent last spring, "They think this is going to fix it, they just need to follow up on the truancy" (Light, 2007). A major concern in the opposing uniforms group is the cost. While school districts say that the cost will be less then purchasing clothes at the local mall (Masagno, 2008), parents are concerned about the cost of three sets of clothing, uniforms, after school and Sundays (Smith). Some pro-uniform parents say the cost of a few school shirts is easier for low-income families to absorb the reality is that often low-income families are using hand-me-downs or purchasing clothes from garage sales and second hand stores. Even some of the major chain department No Uniforms 4 stores may be cheaper then the vendors selected by the school districts (Kawawada, 2008). A concern expressed by students and parents is the students who wear the uniform after school and on the weekends, as might happen in families with very small clothing budgets. The replacement costs would be high (Kawawada, 2008). Additionally students who misbehave wear the uniform after school in the community would reinforce the idea that all of the students from that school were bad (Letchford, 2006). Uniform supporters say that uniforms create a school community, students bond with others at the school. The “more restrictive policy could improve equality among social groups, boost academic achievement, improve student behavior and cut back on distractions” (Light, 2007). However, the opposite seems to be true and supported by studies done by the University of Notre Dame sociologists, in as study called “the Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement”, determined that uniforms have no affect on discipline (Smalls, 2008). Additional research from the 1990s and revised in 2004 from David l Brunsma and Kerry A Rocckquemore documented that there was no direct impact on substance used, behavior problems or attendance that could be related to the use of school uniforms (Smalls, 2008). What can be supported by the use of school uniforms is that the student’s creativity is limited. Parents and students agree that school uniforms stifle choice, freedom of expression and creativity (Smith). While supporters claim that the only downside is the a loss of some individuality that students currently have (Smith), students against uniforms say that “if we are all wearing the exact same shirts, we all tend to look the same, it is hard to express our uniqueness” (Kawawada, 2008). Another more serious outcome of school uniforms is No Uniforms 5 documented by a psychiatrist at the Al Rasheed Hospital is “that students who spent years wearing unified uniforms would be subject to psychological disorders” (Letchford, 2006). It is important to hear from all of the stakeholders in a decision that has such a broad impact on student lives. Parents are divided, schools are desperate to solve many problems, students are against the uniform policy but where do the teachers stand? Schools say the faculty would not have to worry about the dress code, as students would all be wearing the same clothing. The fact remains that teacher’s will still be expected to ensure that the uniform was worn correctly (Letchford, 2006). Officials admit that uniforms will not resolve the non- compliance issues, but rather just change them (Fischer, 2004). Parent supporters believe that having a set uniform for school would reduce “the arguments that occur in many homes every morning between students and their parents about what they will be wearing to school” (Letchford, 2006). Changing the current school policies on dress code is an involved process. Some school districts are leaving the battle up to the individual schools. The process requires informal discussions with parents and students, and then the school council has to come up with a formal proposal. Finally, a set percentage ranging from 66 percent to 75 percent of the parents, guardians and students over 18 must vote in favor of a uniform. The financial costs involved covering staff training and required meetings could be a factor. A report presented by Mackie states “given the limited empirical evidence that supports any value to the uniform, it would be important to consider whether this would be a valuable use of staff time, or more of a distraction” (Krikorian). The debate continues as districts and schools must find solutions to low academic scores, low attendance and other criteria that influence not only a student’s success at school, but also No Uniforms 6 the financial funding to the school because of the No Child Left Behind Act and state requirements. Not only does a school uniform policy infringe on a student’s freedom of expression (Light, 2007), but also a parent’s right to support their children’s creativity and ability to spend hard earned money in a manner that fits their beliefs. Parents would like to have the option to save the money for college education rather then purchase school uniforms (Light, 2007). The problem exists not only in the United States but also in other countries. The fact that uniforms are supposed to encourage students to create a bond with their schools, “a feeling of camaraderie” (Light, 2007), is disproved when “research supports that in poor communities the cost has in fact become a barrier restricting access to schooling.” In countries where governments set a guideline for school uniforms research found that this did not make the uniforms more affordable. “In some cases not having the correct uniform or being able to purchase the uniform are barred from participating in school activities” (Pros, 2004). The United States is headed for more uniform standards in education how long until all choices will be taken from parents and students. Research and studies do not support the school uniform policies. In some cases in the United States the majority does not rule. While each district can implement its only policy regarding what is a majority in several situations a uniform dress code policy was established when only a minority supported the decisions. In one case, 51 percent of the parents, completing surveys regarding uniforms at school clearly opposed the policy, it was implemented at the start of the next school year (Light, 2007). The problem then becomes how schools enforce a new policy, uniforms when they could not the former dress code policy. They cannot. Teachers will make attempts to correct the problem in whichever dress code the district uses whether it is uniforms, standardized dress, or No Uniforms 7 just some variation of what is currently being used. Students will walk out of the home wearing whatever will keep the parents happy, if the parents support the uniform policy. However, by the time the student arrives at school the pants will sag (uniform or not) the shirts or skirts will be rolled to show more skin and the problem continues. Students will slip regular close into backpacks and change to skip school, so the idea that the uniform will make them more noticeable in the community is mute. Nothing that affects the problem areas of truancy, and low academic scores has changed. What has changed is the rights and freedoms that are taught in the schools are taken away from student and parents. What has changed is the individuality and creativity that is already missing from education is further stifled and suffocated. In order to encourage students to attend school, to be successful academically perhaps the change is not found in regulating clothing, but rather supporting creative thinking, which is often reflected in a students clothing style. There is no evidence to support uniform clothes create a bond and a higher desire to learn. There has been a lot of comment pro and con concerning school uniforms. Students could wear tuxedos to school, and if the teachers are not allowed to teach, why bother? School boards have given in to so many special-interest groups, and the learning process has deteriorated so badly in the last 40 years that it is not fair to the taxpayers. Discipline and respect have all but disappeared as our country sinks lower into the abyss of anonymity (Fischer, 2004). It is time to stand up for student rights, to allow the freedoms we take for granted in this country to actually stand for something again. Rather then remove creativity and expression from the students, allow them a little leeway and discretion. They are the future. Do we really want to live in a future where everyone looks, thinks and re-acts the same? Allow parents and students No Uniforms 8 some freedom, within set guidelines, to be the individual and creative thinkers we need them to be. Perhaps if schools were less concerned about what a student was wearing the teachers would have more time to actually spend teaching the students skills they need to be successful. Forcing compliance on uniforms as has been previously stated can cause psychological damage, which is not a solution for our future. There is no research to support uniforms, so just say no to uniforms and yes to creativity and individuality. No Uniforms 9 References Letchford, A. 2006, December 4. Uniforms: The pros and cons. Final Edition. The Spectator,p. G16. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Canadian Newsstand Torstar database. Masango, B. 2008, December 12. Pros and cons of uniforms. The Star,8. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from ProQuest Newsstand database. Smith, D. 19 January. Many people, many opinions at dress-code forums. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News,1. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Business Dateline database. Kawawada, K. 2008, April 28. Trustees back off from uniform debate; Issue will be left in hands of school councils. Waterloo Region Record,B.2. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Canadian Newsstand Torstar database. Light, M. 2007, September 16. Pros and cons for school uniforms. Buffalo News,H.3. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Business Dateline database. Sean Fischer. (2004, December 2). SCHOOL NEWS: ; Hayes weighs pros and cons of school uniforms; HORNET COUNTRY. The Charleston Gazette,p. 4P. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from ProQuest Newsstand database. (Document ID: 751119401). Krikorian, T. 14 June. Uniformly speaking. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News,1. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Business Dateline database. Smalls, Y. 2008, February 22. School City seeks more input on dress code. South Bend Tribune,B.2. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from Business Dateline database. Pros and cons of school uniforms. 2004, July 31. The Star. Retrieved March 19, 2009, from ProQuest Newsstand database.