School uniforms are a topic of much debate in the state school systems of the United States. Both sides have good points as to why or why not schools should require them of the students, and uniforms have gained in popularity in recent years.
School uniforms are specific clothes that a certain school requires its students to wear. Uniforms generally consist of either a dress shirt or polo shirt for both boys and girls and either dark or brown trousers for both or a dark or plaid skirt for girls. Shoes may be dress shoes or plain dark shoes.
As of 2009 in the United States, there are 21 states with state 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 offences were all reduced by at least 90 per cent and vandalism dropped by almost 70 per cent.
The cost of uniforms is a concern for some families, but it has been shown that families in which the children wear uniforms spend almost 80 dollars less on clothing for their children for the school year compared to those who do not have children who wear uniforms. Also, 44 per cent of the families in which the children wear uniforms believe that it keeps the children more focused on school.
Cited pros of school uniforms include decreased violence in schools and increased discipline of the students. Violence decreases because students are less likely to be picked on for their clothing, as there can be no focus on brand names. Along with this, students who are from poorer families are less likely to feel jealous or ashamed that they do not have the same clothing as those who are from wealthier families. Also, as the children wear the same things, it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to wear gang colours or other types of gang-related items. Discipline among the students increases because any tensions related to fashion or gangs have been lessened and students are more likely to be focused on the learning process.
In the debate against uniforms, there are several points that are often mentioned. To begin with, uniforms may not necessarily stop bullying or other violence. Though the same clothes can help to equalise appearance, this will not stop some students from finding other reasons for singling out people. Also, forcing students to wear uniforms can stifle personal expression and creativity. This expression is part of personal growth and it is very important for children to be able to express themselves and become an individual. Additionally, some students may be resentful for being forced to wear uniforms, causing them to act out. In such a case, uniforms have contributed to an unruly learning environment rather than helping to prevent one.