According to the US Department of Education, between the 1999–2000 and 2009–2010 school years, the percentage of public schools requiring students to wear uniforms increased from 12 to 19 (Sweeney, 2014). As the annual percentage of American schools mandating uniforms increases, the nationwide debate between students, parents, and educators intensifies.
School uniforms favor conformity over individuality, strip adolescents of their freedom of expression, and create controversy among the students. In addition, school uniforms are expensive (ranging as high as $249); parents are required to buy multiple sets of the same clothing seeing as their child is forced to wear the same attire five days a week. Due to the great inconvenience of these complications, school uniforms should not be mandatory in any educational environment.
Individuality can be defined as the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind. It can be agreed that today’s generation is being encouraged to embrace individuality and manifest self-confidence. Supportive parents and educators tell children to “be themselves” and thrust upon them the idea that our differences are what positively set us apart from one another. To be forced to dress exactly like our peers five out of seven days a week promotes conformity and distinguishes the ideas of individuality and uniqueness. Adolescents will begin to see themselves as identical to their peers, which will inhibit creativity, originality, and independence, resulting in a less-than-successful working environment.
In addition to favoring conformity, school uniforms strip adolescents of their individual styles and expressions. School-aged kids appreciate having their own sense of style and showcasing their distinct originality, qualities widely embraced by today’s society. The way we express ourselves through clothing is a crucial part of maturing; throughout high school, teenagers tend to experiment with self-identity to determine the person they want to become, often through change of style. The way we dress also reflects potential social groups and movements that we support, and the endorsement of school uniforms substantially rules that out. For example, students at Friendly High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, were not allowed to wear pink shirts to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month (ProCon, 2017). As a result, 75 students received in-school suspensions for breaking the school’s uniform restrictions (2017). Furthermore, the enforcement of school uniforms will cause some students to choose less desirable forms of expression to express themselves, such as tattooing and piercing, to express themselves.
Some educators and board members argue that school uniforms decrease gang activity, peer pressure, and bullying. Seeing as the utilization of school uniforms may eliminate gang attire, it could be assumed that school uniforms create a safer working environment and promote equality among students. However, there have been many studies and experiments to prove that school uniforms increase bullying and violence, rather than eliminate it. For example, a Texas Southern University study found that school discipline incidents rose by about 12% after the introduction of uniforms (ProCon, 2017). An additional study found that “school uniforms increased the average number of assaults by about 14 per year in the most violent schools” (2017). By implementing a stricter bullying policy and enforcing equal punishments to rule-breaking students, schools can decrease bullying rates without having to mandate uniforms.
School uniforms also create tension between students. The typical school uniform for males consists of slacks, a nice shirt, and a tie, while the female uniform is mainly composed of a tie, a nice shirt, and a dress or skirt. Because of the uniform difference between the two genders, it is more difficult for girls to be as comfortable in school as her fellow male classmates. For example, it is more difficult for a young girl to play soccer or basketball in a skirt or dress, opposed to boys playing in slacks. Uniforms also tend to be irritating and uncomfortable, which results in lower test grades and a lower productivity rate among students; it is naturally more challenging to focus on lectures and note-taking if you are uncomfortable in the clothes you’re wearing.
In conclusion, school uniforms must not be enforced in schools. Rather, educators and parents must work together to enforce strict dress codes with clear punishments. Students should be able to comfortably work in the school environment, possess the freedom to express themselves, and own a sense of individuality.