Two Sides, One Issue: Should students wear uniforms in the middle and upper school?

May 24, 2017

For years, the school uniform has been seen as a preppy and useless component of schools. It eliminates the possibility of self expression through clothing, but strengthens the community creates equality among students. On the surface, the school uniform debate shouldn’t appear as a controversial topic. After all, it’s only clothes.

St. Paul Academy and Summit School requires school uniforms throughout lower school, but should it be continued in middle and upper school?

School uniforms create a safer and stronger community

St. Paul Academy and Summit School requires school uniforms throughout lower school, but should it be continued in middle and upper school? The school uniform has been a controversial topic for decades, but many tend to overlook the abundance of benefits from a uniform. Although some students may lose a sense of self-expression when a uniform is implemented, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

The first, and most likely the largest benefit of uniforms, is creating much more social equality in school. A student’s outfit can reflect many things about that particular student, including the wealth and status of the student’s family. Uniforms drastically reduce this gap between students, so that students aren’t judged by the clothing they wear for any reason. In a study performed by professors from the University of Nevada, the implementation of a uniform policy reduced the amount of bullying in the schools that they surveyed. Furthermore, they discovered a reduction in discipline from school faculty.

It’s a small step towards a larger issue, but it would create a more comfortable environment for many students.”

Additionally, school uniforms make a student’s morning routine much more simple. It can be difficult choosing an outfit every day for school. First, you have to find every article of clothing, arrange them, and on top of that, make sure you have variety in your outfits for every day of the week. With a school uniform, students don’t have to stress over clothing options and keeping a wardrobe stocked with all of the trending looks.

Many schools employ a school uniform mainly to eliminate dress code issues. Dress code is a confusing school policy, and the rules can often be vague or difficult to enforce. A school uniform ensures that all students are following the dress code. Issues surrounding clothing length, violent and offensive graphics, tightness, and holes. Furthermore, a unanimous school uniform will create more school spirit and community, and will give SPA a larger public presence. In a large-scale study of six city public schools in Ohio, the implementation of a uniform even helped increase the graduation rates by 11%. 

If we continue uniforms in our upper school, students would feel more comfortable in the community, and no one would be judged by what they wear, even if some may lose a sense of individuality.

Read the opposite here by Sharee Roman.

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Schools should allow students to wear their choice of attire

In 2017, according to Statistic Brain, 23% of all public and private schools had a uniform policy. Although uniforms may diminish economic and social barriers between students and increase a sense of belonging and school pride, schools should allow students to wear their choice of attire.

Research has shown that uniforms do not improve school safety or academic achievement. David L. Brunsma is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Tech and author of The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade. In his 2004 book, he explored the effect of uniforms on academic performance. Through analyzing the 1988 National Educational Longitudinal Study and the 1998 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Brunsma declared that there is,no effects of uniforms on absenteeism, behavioral problems (fights, suspensions, etc.), or substance use on campus” and “no effects” on “pro-school attitudes, academic preparedness, and peer attitudes toward school.”

As a whole, I feel like students should be able to feel less restricted. They should be able to wear whatever they want with some exception such as graphic t-shirts with profane language because they can express themselves.”

— Naomi Wilson

Furthermore, uniforms are equally ineffective on elementary and middle school students. As stated in 2009 peer-reviewed study, “no significant effects of school uniforms on performance on second grade reading and mathematics examinations, as well as on 10th-grade reading, mathematics, science, and history examinations…In many of the specifications, the results are actually negative.”

Uniforms impose extra expense on family members. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of private high school is $13,030. St. Paul Academy costs about double at $28,150. Parents already pay taxes, the tuition, and still need to buy regular clothes for when they are out of school and dress down days. According to an article by WGAL News 8, some children were missing class because their families couldn’t afford to purchase the required uniforms in York County, Pennsylvania. Implementing uniforms undermines the fundamental reason of attending school; to learn, by affecting the attendance rates, it negatively impacts their academic achievement.

School uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression. The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that all individuals have the right to express themselves freely. The US Supreme Court stated in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (7-2, 1969) that “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Currently, SPA requires students in the lower school to wear uniforms, but Junior JJ Werkin believes SPA should not require uniforms at all through grades k-12.

“I think that when you do not wear uniforms it tells who you are, shows what kind of things you like to wear, and what you are comfortable with…[Even in lower school], I don’t see the benefits of wearing uniforms because I don’t think it really changed my behavior at all.”

9th grader Naomi Wilson agrees.

“As a whole, I feel like students should be able to feel less restricted. They should be able to wear whatever they want with some exception such as graphic t-shirts with profane language because they can express themselves.”

Clearly, uniforms should be not required in the middle and upper-school. There are so many more physiologically, financial, academical, and legal benefits of having the freedom of expression through clothing.

It is a good idea to have uniforms in the lower school because the students are developing mentally at a faster pace and having uniforms will help form a better community. By middle and upper school, students have already formed close friends groups, but still are able to communicate with people outside of them. There is no need for uniforms once the adolescent age is reached.

Read the opposing article by Noah Raaum.

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