A young girl sitting on a ledge. She is wearing a skirt with stockings underneath.

Photo courtesy of FoxSchumacher at Flickr Creative Commons.

School uniforms in private or parochial schools are nothing new, but their increasing use in public schools is still a source of contention. Concerned parents and teachers want to know: does requiring school uniforms actually help students focus and achieve? Does it cut down on violence and gang activity? Does it, in short, do everything proponents claim it does?

How about some statistics?

  • In Long Beach, CA, a district-wide K-8 mandatory uniform policy running for two years resulted in a 34% decrease in reports of assault and battery, a 50% decrease in assaults with a deadly weapon, a 74% decrease in sex offenses, a 69% decrease in possession of drugs, and an 18% decrease in vandalism (Education and Urban Society, August 1996).
  • A 2012 peer-reviewed study found that after one year of a uniform policy at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, school police saw a 63% drop in police log reports, as well as decreases in gang activity, student fights, graffiti, and property damage.
  • A 2010 peer-reviewed study found that schools with uniform policies experienced 12% fewer firearm-related incidents and 15% fewer drug-related incidents than schools that didn’t require uniforms (International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 2010).

And these are just a handful of the statistics out there showing the positive impact of school uniform policies. They also only focus on minimizing school violence, when in fact there are a lot of other good reasons to require school uniforms:

  • They make it easier to keep track of students on school trips.
  • They remove the peer pressure and guilt surrounding income level and a student’s ability to wear the latest, most expensive fashions. Everyone is on the same playing field.
  • They help students focus on education rather than who’s wearing what. In fact, a 2010 study from the University of Houston found that elementary school girls’ language test scores increased about 3% once their schools introduced uniforms.
  • They can be used to encourage a sense of community and pride amongst students.
  • They reduce the amount of time a teacher has to spend enforcing a dress code. If everyone is wearing the same simple clothes, it’s easy to tell who’s following the rules and who isn’t.

One of the biggest concerns about uniforms is that it removes an option for students to show their individuality through their clothes. But this discounts the fact that students can wear whatever they like on the weekends—and they have plenty of options when it comes to accessorizing while in school.

As for being able to afford uniforms, many schools offer financial aid to families who need it. Uniforms are seen as being along the same lines as low-income school lunches.

There are plenty of great reasons for schools to move toward uniforms to create a unified, safe environment for students. As more schools adopt uniform policies, we’ll get even greater insight into how they can make our schools more effective and inclusive.