School Uniforms
The Pros, The Cons, The Decision
Jason, Amber, Jennifer, and Yaniv


i. Introduction (15 minutes)

  • History of uniforms (have the summary projected on a overhead, smart board, power point)
  • Statistics (handout)

ii. Pros (20 minutes)
  • Reduced violence
  • Modesty
  • Fresh Prince Video
  • Q&A Session

iii. Cons (20 minutes)
  • No individuality
  • Cost
  • Pink Floyd Video
  • Q&A Session

iv. Making a Decision (55 minutes)
  • Testimonies (30 minutes)
    • Jen - growing up with uniforms
    • Yaniv - growing up with adversities
  • Academic Controversy Outline (so they can take what they have learned back to their schools/district and have a controlled and productive way to discuss school uniforms; we would give them a handout)
  • Q&A Session

v. Final Words (10 minutes)
  • Making a decision: Things to Consider
    • Students - their safety and needs need to be considered
    • Cost - if it will be a huge cost on the district's part should be considered
    • Learning Environment - if it will enhance and encourage a stronger, safer learning environment needs to considered
  • Handout resource list



- After the fall of Rome, formal schooling in the West disappeared. The rare vestiges of school were the song schools of the cathedrals and monasteries. The boys chosen at first were taught to prepare them for holy orders. We have only limited information about the clothing for these early choristers.
- There does appear to have been some uniformity in the clothing worn by the choristers in the early song schools. This appears to have been less common in the secular schools which slowly developed during the second millennium.
- The dictum “Dress right, act right” was heard often in schools in the 1950s and ’60s during campaigns to curb “juvenile delinquency.” In the 1950s, many school dress codes prohibited girls from wearing slacks. In the 1960s, many school administrators stipulated the length of girls’ skirts. Blue jeans, motorcycle boots, and black leather jackets were considered dangerous attire on boys and linked to gangs.
- In the 1980s, an effort to thwart growing gang activity in schools led school officials to reexamine their schools’ dress codes and consider policies requiring uniforms. Restrictive dress codes were introduced in many secondary schools with the intent of prohibiting gang attire. “
- Public school districts and individual schools have long established dress codes proscribing certain clothing. The first public school known to have adopted uniforms was Cherry Hill Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1987. In 1994, Long Beach (CA) Unified School District (LBUSD) was the first school district to adopt a district-wide uniform dress code policy.
- The idea of dress codes and uniforms gained official sanction when President Clinton endorsed the idea of public-school uniforms in his 1996 State of the Union Address. Following Clinton’s direction, the U.S. Department of Education mailed A Manual of School Uniforms to all 16,000 school districts in the United States.
With guidelines in hand, school boards and administrators began to develop dress codes and uniform policies.

  • By 1999, 72 percent of New York City’s 675 elementary schools had a standardized dress code.
  • In 2000, the Philadelphia School Board unanimously adopted a district-wide policy requiring some type of uniform.
  • By 2000, in Miami, 60 percent of the public schools required uniforms; in Chicago, 80 percent.
  • By 2000, 30 percent of the public schools in San Francisco, 50 percent of the schools in Cincinnati, 65 percent in Boston, 85 percent in Cleveland, and 95 percent in New Orleans had school-uniform programs.
  • Also by 2000, 37 state legislatures, including those in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia, had enacted legislation empowering local districts to set their own uniform policies. (Morris and Wells 2000)
- It’s not clear how many districts and schools now enforce a dress code or uniform policy. But the trend toward proscribing and prescribing what students wear to class continues to grow, along with the debate.


Reduced Violence: Family Matters Episode (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)
Modesty: At Hedrick, they hand out shirts for students who break the dress code (mainly girls showing too much cleavage, but some boys are sent to the office for having obscene or drug related language on their shirt). When the studnets receive a "fashion infraction", they are given an old PE shirt. They go change in the bathroom and then bring their shirt back. At the end of the day they can come back and change and get their shirt. Now, it is the end of the year, and some students have 15 of the PE shirts, which means the school has their shirt. Meaning that these students are craving a modest (or clean - language wise) shirt. The school has decided that to get their shirts back, and give the students their shirts back, they are going to charge them $8 per shirt. This would have been avoided had students been required to wear uniforms.
Fresh Prince Video: ****

No Individuality:
  • School uniforms hamper original thinking in students. Everyone says that a uniform makes students look equal. But has anyone thought about people who are forced to wear certain items? Like Sikh people? They will be pulled out of school at an earlier age if the do not follow the family's religious beliefs. Not only that, all kids should be given the freedom to chose what they like rather than wearing what they do not like. When they grow up they will never be able to give their opinion on something, whatever it may be. When choosing a dress to wear to school, kids might take time at the same time they learn to think for themselves and to give their ideas to the world, now like in school...
We all have a right to individuality, to make personal choices and to express our personality. This right of free expression includes the way we choose to dress. Making everyone wear the same school uniform infringes on (goes against) our rights and is a misuse of authority. The right to choose what to wear is particularly important for young people, who often have few other ways of expressing their personality or making choices about their lives.

The cost of school uniforms is anywhere from $10 to $20 (at JCPenney). I have worked there many years, and they always have a sale on school uniforms, especially right before school starts.
Pink Floyd Video: ****

I spent most of my early education behind the doors of Catholic schools. From kindergarten through my sophomore year, wearing a uniform to school everyday was ordinary. Although I knew no other life, I do remember the drawbacks of looking like everyone else.
Around the 7th grade, about the same time young people are filled with the joys of teenage-hood, I started to notice subtle changes in some of my friends. Since we all had the same plaid skirt and white blouse, the only way to differentiate ourselves was by the shoes we wore and how we accessorized. If you tried to shorten your skirt or wear a stitch of make-up, the nuns were all over you. In the early days, we all wore penny loafers; but at some point the school became “relaxed” and we were allowed to wear tennis shoes. Colored hi-top Reeboks were it! If you did not have the latest color, you were nobody. I remember begging my parents for those shoes…just to be able to keep up with the Jones’s. Accessories were the other marking of coolness – you had to have the latest S.W.A.T.C.H. watch. At one point I think I owned 15 of them….
In high school things just got worse. Now girls tried (and got away with) altering the length of our skirts, make-up, and have really high hair. One might say this is because young girls want to get the attention of young boys. However, I went to an all-girls school…. This tells me that making these changes, doing the hair-thing, and having the best shoes is really a cry saying “hey look at me – I am a unique individual and have my own feelings and personality.”
I never got into any real trouble during my Catholic school days. Junior year I decided to go to a public school. What a difference! Oh I am sure there was issues over wearing “regular” clothes between students, but coming form years of uniforms I was just happy to wear t-shirts to school. Personally, I don’t see the positive aspect of wearing a school uniform. I did it for 10 years, and it didn’t stop people from joining gangs and fighting over clothes and trying to win a popularity contest. Uniforms are only worn from 8-3… how will the Uniform-Lovers handle the rest of the 24-hour day?

Growing up in a low income single parent situation was very difficult at times. My mother didn’t have a job and we relied on the government’s assistance and anyone else who would help. To make things more complicated, we lived in 5 states before I reached the 6th grade. I was always the new kid which had its own separate adversities to overcome. Trying to fit was a must for me.

One way to fit in was to look normal. Normal can mean many things to many different people but I think we can all agree that we live in a society that demands us to look and act a certain way. One example is the tremendous amount of pressure on young ladies who feel they have to look like the models in magazines and other media sources. One way to do that is wearing designer clothing. The schools I attended were definitely a part of this culture. I remember a certain type of shoes that all the boys wore. Those shoes were Air Jordan’s. Air Jordan’s were $130.00 and many kids wore them. I had a pair of used white Keds purchased from a thrift store which I wrote Nike Air on the side with a black sharpie. This was one of my methods of fitting in.

We all know that kids can be very mean to other kids. Some of the targets are overweight, foreign and poor students. One easy way to avoid being a target was to have nice brand name clothes that other students admired. Teachers can only do so much. As a Health teacher, I speak about bullying and the severe consequences of it. A teacher can only do so much when they compete with an extremely strong media driven country.

So how do we help students who don’t “fit in”? One way is to have all students wear the same clothes. Students will still make fun of each other but I really believe this would help reduce the separation of the different social classes. There are many different reasons one could argue for school uniforms but I want to focus on being bullied and what that does to a student’s self esteem. I would also like to mention that when I say school uniforms, I mean head to toe, even the same shoes.

In my experience working in schools, I notice that many students do not have a high self esteem, mostly from media sources. Having students wear the same uniforms will create a sense of feeling equal amongst each other. Students are smart enough these days to create their own style so I’m sure they would come up with their own unique ways to wear their uniforms however, they all have the same uniforms regardless of the student’s income situation.

I could write pages about the adversities I had to overcome because of the situation I was in. I hated coming to school and hear kids whisper about my fake Nikes. There was another time there were Reeboks at the thrift store and I was so excited……then I found out they were girls shoes because they had three velcro straps opposed to the boys which had two. This was an easy fix but it took a kid making fun me for having girl shoes before I could rip one strap off of each shoe to make them look like boy shoes. I did all of this so I could fit in. I didn’t want kids to know that my situation made me a different person or less cool then they were.
Another issue I have is what some of the females are wearing. Again this is media driven but young teenage girls should not be dressing as provocative as they are today. I’m sure many fathers agree. The message these girls are sending is the wrong message when they are wearing the low-cut jeans Brittney Spears wore in her music video.

In the end, what we want for our students is to create a stage for students to learn and focus on their education. School uniforms help this cause in every way. No one can be judged by the clothes they wear. I don’t see how anyone could argue against school uniforms. If you disagree, I would like you to ask a seventh grader at your school to buy a pair of used non-brand name shoes and write Nike on the side. After the end of the day, ask him or her if anybody made fun of them. I would take the over on that bet.

Academic Controversy: Go over the structure and guidelines of how to follow a structured academic controversy.

Making the Decision: When making a decision about having students wear school uniforms, there are many aspects that need to be considered such as will it be a huge cost to the district. Will requiring school uniforms make it hard to afford other necessities for teaching? However, as educators, our main concerns are for the safety and well being of our students, and whether or not the learning environment is safe and conducive to learning. When deciding on uniforms these aspects need to be heavily weighed. Will uniforms increase safety for our students? Will uniforms help enhance student well being? Will uniforms help to keep the learning environment safe? Will uniforms make school a place where education and learning are the center of attention? Will school uniforms help students to focus and learn? All of these questions should be pondered and answered before making a decision.

Resources: clip on how to dress up and individualize your school uniform (really cute)