I will not beat around the bush on this one. I am a proponent of school uniforms for all schools K-12.
I’ve done some research on this recently to find out the role and legalities of a school uniform in public schools. Turns out that instituting a mandatory school uniform is both allowed and legal in public school.
In 1996, the US Department of Education published the potential benefit of school uniforms in the Manual of School Uniforms and distributed the manual to all of the nation’s 16,000 school districts. The manual stated that uniforms decrease violence and theft, prevent gang-related clothing and activities, instill student discipline, help students resist peer pressure, help students concentrate on academics and aid in recognition of intruders.
I also checked with the CA Department of Education policies to find where our state stands on this issue, and the CA Education Code Section 35183 clearly supports the implementation of school uniforms.
Then, in May 2000, the Philadelphia Board of Education implemented a policy requiring uniforms in all 259 of their K-12 schools, affecting 200,000 students -- the first large district to do so. And even our neighbor to the north, Long Beach Unified, implemented school uniforms in all of their K-8 campuses.
At the public school where I teach in Cypress, CA, we have a strict uniform policy for all students. The uniform consists of simple school-branded polos, uniform pants, skirts or shorts, and limited shoe-color options. I love it, and so do our parents. The same benefits the US Department of Education purports of school uniforms are the same benefits I find to be true on my campus. In addition, I also find that our uniform diminishes differences among socio-economic levels, promotes school spirit, improves self confidence, raises the bar on behavior, sets expectations for learning, and creates a professional environment for both students and staff.
Kids like to complain about the uniform, but not one student has been able to find an argument worthy of a school-wide change in policy; the students’ primary arguments lie in “individuality,” suggesting that clothing is the one, and only, opportunity they have for self expression.
I support self expression for students, but I will argue that rather than their outward appearance reflecting who they are, wouldn’t we all rather our children find ways to behave in such a way that reflects who they are on the inside? Be irreplaceable because of volunteerism. Stand out through academic achievement. Gain recognition for participation in local community events. Be a star on the playing field or stage, rather than just wearing one on your t-shirt.
Just as we have expectations for dressing appropriately on the job as adults, we should hold our kids accountable for their clothing at their job -- school. I would no sooner want to see my lawyer dressed in his pajamas than I would my child’s teacher dressed for the beach. Being a professional includes not only behavior, knowledge, and performance, but also dress; it’s part of the package.
And as I sit here and think about what I want for my own children from their public education, I am convinced that becoming a confident young adult, concerned with content and substance, is more important than the pair of jeans they want to wear school, being concerned, rather, with only how they look. I wholeheartedly admit and accept that a change in dress code for our kids in LAUSD would be monumental and a tremendous struggle -- I can hear my own kids’ arguments as I type. Nevertheless, based on the research, it’s a fight I’m worth having.
Any policy that promotes a more focused educational environment, additional safety measures and equity among all students ... then I'm all in!
Who’s with me?