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.