A uniform refers to identical, or almost identical, clothing worn to distinguish people associated with an institution. Many jobs require a uniform to identify people as members of their staff -- for example, stores and public transport networks. It is the requirement for uniforms in schools that has generated the most controversy and has led to the majority of complaints.
The wearing of a uniform as a means of identifying a police officer or a member of a store's staff is of obvious benefits, but it also can help schools. It means that somebody on the premises illegally can be easily identified and can help shop owners, police and other officials identify what school the children come from.
Studies on schools with uniforms have concluded that they help with children's performance and discipline. This benefit has been attributed to a reduction in the distractions facing students through provocative or inappropriate clothing. Many people hope that this improvement will continue outside of the classroom, leading to less youth crime.
In many inner city schools, gang-related violence is a major problem, even leading to the introduction of metal detectors at the school gates so weapons can be confiscated. If a person is wearing a required school uniform, he can no longer be identified by his clothes as a gang member.
A major reason for the introduction of school uniforms has had little to do with safety or crime, but to level the fashion playing field for students. If all students have to wear the same clothes to school, then the child of the family who cannot afford designer labels looks the same as everybody else. This leads to less bullying and higher self esteem for underprivileged children. The main drawback here for low-income families is that they will have to pay extra money for school uniforms, as well as other clothes for their children, which is an unreasonable expense. Another argument suggests that this will only move the problem outside the classroom, because the socioeconomic differences will still exist outside school.
Freedom of Expression
The legal argument against school uniforms is based on the First Amendment, allowing for freedom of expression. The case suggests that students have a right to express themselves through their clothes; therefore, a mandatory school uniform is not constitutional. Another argument suggests that by making kids follow a set dress code, their personal creativity is dented.
The main arguments for and against uniforms focus mainly on the school uniform issue rather than on uniforms at work. It is important that members of some professions are clearly visible, such as police officers. It's also useful when other people are identifiable as working in a particular store. The resentments and legal arguments surrounding uniforms disappear once the person has chosen a career path that will involve the wearing of a uniform, as the person is capable of making his or her own decision about this.
- National School Safety and Security Services: School Uniforms, Dress Codes, & Book Bags
- National Center for Educational Statistics: Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009
- New Archaeology: Facts against School Uniforms
- K12 Directory of Schools: The Variable Dresscode: Pros and Cons of School Uniforms