Hot Button Issues in Education Today: School Uniforms
by Judy Molland

Apparently the idea of school uniforms is one whose time has come. Approximately one-third of the students in California, Texas and New York are now in uniform. Urban area schools, in particular, are increasingly requiring school uniforms. For example,  Houston reports that 60 percent of students are wearing uniforms;  and in Los Angeles, 55 percent are in uniform. Overall, more than 15 million students nationwide are wearing a uniform to school, with well over half of these youngsters attending public schools.

School uniforms were first made mandatory in an urban public school in 1994, when Long Beach, Calif., Superintendent Carl Cohn required them in grades K-8. The nation’s largest school district, New York City, followed suit in 1999, with 72 percent of its 675 elementary schools adopting a standardized dress code.

T-FAMILY: Verdana">School uniforms have always prompted debate over whether limiting the fashion choices of students eliminates a difficult, and expensive, part of peer pressure. Proponents believe uniforms even the playing field, while opponents cite the need for kids to express themselves and their individuality through personal appearance.

Why are more schools turning to uniforms? This past April, five key findings emerged from “Implementing a School Uniform Policy,” a study that focused on the Denver Public Schools in Colorado, the Aldine Independent School District outside of Houston, and a district of the Baltimore Public Schools in Maryland. The study found that:

• Regular use of uniforms can help improve school safety.

• Regular use of uniforms can help improve students’ classroom behavior.

• The affordability of school uniforms versus everyday clothing contributes to wide acceptance of the adoption of such a policy.

• Uniforms can help reduce student competition and concerns about fitting in.

• Uniforms may contribute to improved student outcomes, including grades and test scores.

The findings aren’t really new, just further confirmation of earlier studies that found significant benefits to school uniforms.