School uniforms are becoming increasingly popular in public schools across the country, but the debate about whether these uniforms are achieving the desired unity needs to be questioned.
Pinellas County Superintendent Julie Janssen is pushing to require all county students in grades K-8 to wear school uniforms as part of a package of reforms.
It seems the district wants the uniforms to give off the air of a more organized, smarter school system. Some of Janssen’s proposed measures, like uniforms and signed contracts with parents, are aimed at increasing parental involvement in schooling.
However, requiring uniforms in Pinellas County or any other county teaches students a dangerous lesson because it opposes their freedom of expression, which is a fundamental staple supported by the U.S. Constitution.
Not only that, but it may not even be effective.
In “The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade,” University of Missouri sociologist David Brunsma found no empirical relationship between school uniforms and academic achievement in his 8-year study.
Overall, the uniforms did not affect academics positively or negatively.
With seemingly inconclusive results, why make life difficult for youth who use their clothes as an expression of their personality?
The idea that students should look the same is not desirable and could prevent them from demonstrating a sense of individuality.
Cost is another factor that must be considered. Uniforms are usually specific and must be bought with certain colors and lengths in mind, where slight deviations could mean calling home.
Uniforms can be an expensive burden, as many families may struggle to afford buying additional clothing.
Likewise, because these special outfits are designed only for school, parents must also buy clothing that their kids can wear after school, on weekends and to other special occasions.
Some may enjoy the confinement of uniforms and the perceived unity of a student body with the same clothes on their backs.
Others, however, do not desire such unity and, perhaps, even strive to go against the grain. Districts have the power to dictate nearly every aspect of what a student does during the day, but it would be wrong for school officials to overreach their authority by choosing how students dress as well.
Lindsy Power is a freshman majoring in biology.