Our Opinion: Uniforms: Time for public schools to try them on?

Are uniforms for public school students a reasonable early step toward improving the educational environment?

The question, already a topic of informal discussion in the Jefferson City Public Schools, is likely to receive added attention in the rekindled conversation about public education. The topic, according to Amy Berendzen, director of JCPS school-community relations, is on the a laundry list of items to be raised at future public forums.

During a previous public forum, district patrons and parents raised concerns about undisciplined students, demoralized teachers and disengaged administrators.

A case can be made that perhaps the single-most effective way to improve overall student attitude, discipline and safety is implementation of school uniforms.

School uniforms are not uncommon in parochial schools — Helias High School requires them — and have been gaining acceptance in public schools since 1994.

According to a Public School Review story exploring pros and cons of the issue, proponents contend uniforms improve the learning environment because:

• Competition and peer pressure associated with wearing the most popular clothes are alleviated.

• Socioeconomic differences among students are minimized.

• Discipline referrals, “clique” or “gang” identification and violence are reduced.

• Safety is enhanced because outsiders are easily recognized.

• Cohesion and unity are enhanced.

• Teachers waste less time enforcing “degrees” of non-compliance with complex dress codes.

Opponents believe school uniforms inhibit self-expression. Allowing students to make clothing choices enhances confidence, independence and personal development, they contend.

The cost of uniforms is another issue. According to the Public School Review story, the upfront costs to acquire all articles of clothing are greater than ongoing costs.

The issue of school uniforms certainly has a place in the public school conversation, and offers a constructive change within the public schools.

For parents, the costs of uniforms likely will be less expensive than continually outfitting children with the latest, trendy styles.

For students, uniform link attitudes and actions. Donning a uniform in the morning is an action that prepares a student for the school day — a day to learn, to share with peers and to respect educators and their school.


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