Although people in middle school and high school like to express themselves through the clothes they wear, many are finding that they would rather wear a uniform to school.
In 1994, Long Beach, CA was the first public school district in the United States to require students to wear uniforms. Today over 10% of public schools in 19 states require them.
Now that nearly 20 years have passed since public school students in Long Beach started wearing uniforms, parents, teachers, and even students agree that uniforms have had a positive effect.
For starters, uniforms create a level playing field for every student. Because everyone is wearing the same thing, it’s easier for people with less money to fit in. Also, uniforms prevent students from using clothing to compete with one another. Students do not feel the need to buy expensive clothes in order to be “cool”.
In this way, uniforms can help boost students’ self esteem. School Safety Consultant Ken Trump noticed this effect when he said, “Kids are trying so hard to one-up each other on everything from hairstyles to shoes. It takes away the daily fashion show and helps level the playing field a little bit with the haves and have-nots.”
In addition, uniforms create a safer school environment. Schools in California and other states that have school uniforms have lower truancy, gang violence, and illegal drug activity. Researches are not sure why, but they suspect that uniforms reduce gang violence by not allowing students to wear gang colors and symbols to school.
In 2013, one year after three middle schools in Washoe County, Nevada instated uniforms, the schools saw a 63% decrease in police actions against students including, “decrease in gang involvement and bullying.” As students felt safer, they attended school regularly and showed increased self confidence in academics.
By improving a school’s environment, uniforms improve students’ capacity for learning. With the focus taken away from material things and safety concerns, students are more relaxed and able to focus on learning.
In 1996 in his State of the Union speech, President Clinton encouraged public schools to adopt uniforms to bring “discipline and learning back to our schools.” He instructed the Federal Education Department to distribute manuals to 16,000 school districts in the United States advising them how they can legally require school uniforms in public schools.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of school uniforms was pointed out by President Clinton when he addressed the Long Beach school district in 1992: “Instead, they slowly teach our young people one of life’s most important lessons: that what really counts is what you are and what you become on the inside, rather than what you are wearing on the outside.”