Letter: Uniforms beneficial in many ways

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To the editor,

I am a long-time resident of Beacon Falls, having attended both Laurel Ledge and Long River Middle School in the 1980s, and a mother to a 6-year-old who will be starting Laurel Ledge Elementary School this fall. In the last two weeks, I have read about parents’ non-support of a school uniform policy in Region 16, but I have read little in support of the effort.

I personally applaud the idea of a school uniform policy because, unlike my peers that state, “there is no objective evidence that uniforms help a school district,” I have found that there is plenty of evidence if one takes the time to research various school districts that have moved to a uniform policy. I also find that there are a multitude of benefits in having uniforms that are empirically proven without needing studies or statistics. These benefits include a cost savings on clothing, less distraction in the classroom, an increased feeling of school pride and community spirit, and an understanding of how one’s dress measures a person’s success, not just in the classroom, but in the workplace where certain dress attire is expected if not mandated.

Opponents of the school uniform or dress code policy explain that uniforms would be more costly, but most people find that when children are limited to wearing the same outfit each day, they are spending less. We know a pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers quadruples the cost of a typical black Oxford shoe that can be purchased almost anywhere. We also know that uniforms eliminate the concern of children needing to dress or replicate the outfits of their well-off peers, which is either too expensive or simply unobtainable.

Uniforms in the classroom also provide less distraction. Doris Jo Murphy, EdD, former director of field experiences at the University of North Texas College of Education, states “As an elementary assistant principal in two suburban districts, I can tell you that the dress code took up a great deal of my time in the area of discipline. … I wished many times that we had uniforms because the issue of skirts or shorts being too short, and baggy jeans and pants on the boys not being pulled up as they needed to be, would have been a non-issue.”

While it has been stated that “there have been no disciplinary actions taken due to dress or appearance” in Region 16 this year, it is implausible to think all of our students have dressed in an appropriate, professional and non-disruptive manner. Teenagers are known for testing boundaries, and students, particularly in junior high and high school, will spend more time gawking at a provocatively dressed teen than watching how an algebra teacher solves a problem on the board. Simply stated, dress codes in public schools are lax these days, and while inappropriate dress may not contribute to all disruptions in the classroom, they certainly do contribute to some of them.

Finally, it is a well-known fact that uniforms/dress codes invoke a sense of pride and community spirit in schools, places or work, sports teams and the military. Many places of work — from hospitals, police departments, fire departments, hotel chains, restaurants, clothing stores, and even corporate America — require some type of uniform or dress code. The same goes for our sports teams and national clubs and organizations. Uniforms enhance a person’s feeling of belonging, they identify people as being part of a team, and many times, they increase the overall morale of an organization. Private schools know this, corporate America knows this, national baseball teams and football leagues know this, and so do our men and women in uniform.

My son can wear all the Minecraft shirts he wants to at home; at school, I want him to feel like he’s part of something more important and he’s doing something more important — and that is getting an education and being prepared for a work place that will most likely want him to conform to the same type of dress code standards that we are discussing today.

Annette Bosley-Boyce

Beacon Falls

1 COMMENT

  1. As a Region 16 parent, I have publicly stated, both verbally and written, that I am against mandating a uniform policy at Region 16 schools. I wrote my letter to the editor (Cummings) and spoke at the June 17 Region 16 Board of Education meeting to encourage Beacon Falls and Prospect residents to inform themselves about the issue and debate the merits. I am glad to see that someone on the pro-uniform side has taken the time to explain her opinions publicly and eloquently. Unfortunately, this letter does not provide objective evidence that uniforms benefit schools. Throughout my comments below I have included citations to actual sources found online. At the end of my comments I include the full list of sources.

    Objective Evidence
    I disagree that there is objective evidence supporting a uniform policy. Objective evidence “expresses the idea that the claims, methods and results of science are not, or should not be influenced by particular perspectives, value commitments, community bias or personal interests, to name a few relevant factors” (Reiss and Sprenger). The anecdotes in the letter above are not objective evidence. The articles that support uniform policies that one may find online are not objective. They are quoted opinions at worst; subjective surveys at best. I can respect an opinion when it only affects the individual stating that opinion. I cannot support an opinion when it negatively affects my family. I strongly refute opinions when they are unfounded and mislead decision makers. Parents who truly believe that “one’s dress measures a person’s success” are free to dress their children for success. They are free to make them wear polo shirts and khakis, or skirts and blouses. However, do not make the school district enforce their dress when you cannot. Do not force other parents to dress their children the way you want them to. In other words, do not stop me from eating a donut just because you are on a diet.

    To claim that there is “plenty of evidence” in support of uniform policies, yet in turn reject objective studies and statistics is baffling to me. In an eight-year, objective, peer-reviewed, published study, David L. Brunsma, Ph.D., a sociology professor now at Virginia Tech, concluded: “Despite media coverage, which has been exceedingly selective and misrepresentative, and despite the anecdotal meanderings of politicians, community members, educators, board members, parents, and students, uniforms have not been effective in achieving the outcomes they were assumed to aid:
    – Reducing violence and behavioral problems;
    – Fostering school unity and improving the learning environment;
    – Reducing social pressures and leveling status differentials;
    – Increasing student self-esteem and motivation;
    – Saving parents money on clothing for their children;
    – Improving attendance; and
    – Improving academic achievement.” (Brunsma, David L.)

    The letter to the editor above is academically well written to support an opinion. However, it is full of unfounded generalizations, such as: “most people”, “we know”, “we also know”, “I can tell you”, “it is implausible to think”, “students…will spend more time gawking…than watching an algebra teacher”, “dress codes are lax”, and “it is a well-known fact”. The author provides no objective evidence to support these generalizations. Again, I welcome the debate. Please provide objective evidence.

    Cost
    Uniforms are not free, unless you apply for financial assistance due to hardship. One uniform can cost between $25 and $100 (Costhelper Education). You can get by on one uniform if you do laundry every day. Three would be easier. Five is comfortable. After all, aren’t uniforms supposed to make it easy on parents? Five uniforms would cost between $125 and $500. That’s for one child. Two kids add up to uniform costs between $250 and $1,000 per year! That’s right. Parents need to buy new uniforms every year, because kids grow out of their clothes, clothes get damaged, and kids ask their parents for new clothes. If you can’t say “no” to Air Jordans, how can you say “no” to new uniforms every year? That’s uniform costs of between $3,250 and $13,000 over 13 years of school! I’d rather save that for college tuition. On top of that, some parents will still be purchasing $60-$200 Air Jordans. A uniform policy is not set. It may allow sneakers to be worn, just as sneakers are allowed under Waterbury’s revised uniform policy (Waterbury Board of Education). If you are willing to shell out about $500 a year on uniforms, $100 sneakers should not be an issue. If you cannot afford Air Jordans, don’t buy them! Besides, assuming a uniform policy requires “typical black Oxford” shoes, parents will still buy sneakers. In my personal experience, kids will not wear dress shoes outside of school or formal occasions. It’s the parent’s choice how much to buy in civilian clothes, whether they give their kids a clothing allowance or they buy the clothes themselves. If non-parents purchase clothes for children then it is the parent’s call on what their kids are wearing when they leave the house to go to school. It’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure their kids dress in accordance with the current dress and grooming policy. If the kids change clothes after leaving home then it’s the school’s responsibility to discipline in accordance with the current dress and grooming policy.

    Distractions
    Kids get distracted. Several studies show that noise can distract kids and result in lower performance (Sparks). Do we need to enact a noise policy, too? Doris Jo Murphy, EdD, has eight years of experience as an assistant principal of two North Texas schools and has expressed her opinion on uniforms (University of Northern Texas). One job responsibility of school staff is to enforce the rules and discipline appropriately. The assistant principal is often given the unenviable job of the ultimate enforcer at the school level. If an assistant principal does not want that job then she should change jobs, not change policy. In fact, Dr. Murphy is no longer an assistant principal. She is currently an adjunct professor of education and a consultant (Murphy).

    If students are not “dressed in an appropriate, professional and non-disruptive manner” then they should be disciplined in accordance with the current dress and grooming policy. A uniform policy would still need to be enforced and staff will still be burdened with enforcement. Shirts may not be tucked. The color of the shirt may be out of standards. The type of pants or the way they are worn may not comply. The color of shoes may not comply. Increasing the standards will not ensure compliance. Dress standards enforcement will continue even with uniforms. Enforcing the current dress and grooming code should be the answer.

    Respect
    If parents have an issue with their kids “gawking at a provocatively dressed teen” then they should talk to their kids about respect. They should not “slut shame” the individual who is expressing their individuality and confidence while complying with the current dress and grooming policy. If the “provocatively dressed” student does not comply, then parents and the school staff are responsible to discipline the individual. Further, the “gawking” student should be disciplined in accordance with the Bullying/Safe School Climate Plan (Region 16 Board of Education).

    Enforcement
    Where is the evidence that “dress codes in public schools are lax these days”? If someone perceives that Region 16 students are dressing outside of the current dress and grooming code, then the enforcement of the code may be lax, not the code itself. The Region 16 dress and grooming code itself is clear (Region 16 Board of Education). Parents and staff must enforce the current code.

    Pride
    I’ll be the first to admit that wearing a uniform instills a sense of pride, depending on whether you chose to wear the uniform. I chose to wear my Air Force uniform and was proud of it and the service members with whom I served. Athletes choose to join a team that wears uniforms. Scouts choose to join the pack and wear a uniform. Some students choose to attend a magnet school or private school and wear the uniforms. People who choose to wear the team’s uniform take great pride in what they wear and how they wear it. They take pride in the team. However, I did not choose to wear my school uniform. I respected the school uniform and I took pride in my school, but I would rather have had the choice of what to wear. Many students (I admit the generalization for lack of specific names) at Woodland have stated that they used to wear school uniforms before coming to Woodland and were so glad to be out of them. Granted, others may miss their uniforms, but they are free to continue to wear their uniforms at Region 16 schools. Anyone can wear uniform clothes at Region 16 schools, in accordance with the dress and grooming code.

    Creativity
    A Minecraft t-shirt costs about $10. We will continue to buy these for our kids no matter what happens with uniforms. For anyone not familiar with Minecraft, and not to digress too much, it is an open-source 3D world building experience. I hesitate to call it a game. Players can build castles and towns; cut down trees for lumber; and dig mines to find iron, gold, and diamond that are used to construct tools to build higher and dig deeper. Players can change their appearance, or “skins”, to whatever their imagination allows. It is a colorful, immersive experience. In my opinion, Minecraft challenges spatial reasoning, encourages creativity, and supports logical thinking. I believe uniforms are the opposite. Uniforms are restrictive, limited in color, and limited in imagination. Parents, ask your children to imagine Minecraft with only two colors of blocks and no changing skins. I’d expect them to be highly disappointed.

    Challenges
    Region 16 is an outstanding school district with typical suburban school challenges. My four children have attended for ten years. When the letter’s author’s son has attended Region 16 for ten years I would appreciate hearing her feedback as a parent regarding the actual problems in our schools nowadays, few may they be.

    Again, thank you for continuing the debate. I look forward to any other inputs from the public. The uniform survey is still open and available at the schools or the district office through Friday, July 10. Please express your opinions and present your facts.

    Works Cited
    “Brunsma, David L.” Jan/Feb 2006. National Association of Elementary School Principals. Web. 10 June 2015.
    “Costhelper Education.” 2015. School Uniform Cost. Web. 4 July 2015.
    Cummings, Paul. “Letter: Uniforms do not benefit school districts.” Citizen’s News 26 June 2015: 6.
    Murphy, Doris Jo. “Texas Woman’s University.” 25 August 2014. Curriculum Vitae. Web. 4 July 2015.
    Region 16 Board of Education. “Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.” 20 February 2013. Regional School District Online Policy Manual (5132). Web. 4 July 2015.
    —. “Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.” 27 May 2015. Regional School District Online Policy Manual (5131.911). 4 July 2015.
    Reiss, Julien & Sprenger, Jan. “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” 2004. Scientific Objectivity. Web. 4 July 2015.
    Sparks, Sarah D. “Education Week.” 6 January 2015. Low-Level Classroom Noise Distracts, Experts Say. Web. 4 July 2015.
    University of Northern Texas. “News.” 3 August 2006. School uniforms equalize students, education professors say. Web. 4 July 2015.
    Waterbury Board of Education. “Students.” 21 May 2015. School Attire (5132(a)-(e)). Web. 10 June 2015.