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Should uniforms be worn in schools?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/9/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,431 times Debate No: 45520
Debate Rounds (5)
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Uniforms should be worn in schools.
Round 1- Acceptance
Round 2-Facts on both sides
Round 3- Your opinion
Round 4- Facts to support your opinion
Round 5- Conclusion


I accept. Uniforms should not be worn in schools.
Debate Round No. 1


For the past decade, schools, parents and students have clashed over the issue of regulating student attire. In 2007, cases involving an anti-Bush T-shirt in Vermont, an anti-gay T-shirt in San Diego and Tigger socks in Napa, California, made their way through the courts, causing many to wonder whether this debate will ever be resolved.

Meanwhile, researchers are divided over how much of an impact - if any - dress policies have upon student learning. A 2004 book makes the case that uniforms do not improve school safety or academic discipline. A 2005 study, on the other hand, indicates that in some Ohio high schools uniforms may have improved graduation and attendance rates, although no improvements were observed in academic performance.

Why do some public schools have uniforms?

In the 1980s, public schools were often compared unfavorably to Catholic schools. Noting the perceived benefit that uniforms conferred upon Catholic schools, some public schools decided to adopt a school uniform policy.

President Clinton provided momentum to the school uniform movement when he said in his 1996 State of the Union speech, "If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms."

The pros and cons of school uniforms

According to proponents, school uniforms:

Help prevent gangs from forming on campus
Encourage discipline
Help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes
Help identify intruders in the school
Diminish economic and social barriers between students
Increase a sense of belonging and school pride
Improve attendance
Opponents contend that school uniforms:

Violate a student's right to freedom of expression
Are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence
Make students a target for bullies from other schools
Are a financial burden for poor families
Are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education
Are difficult to enforce in public schools


These stats come from the US Dep. of Education:

Percent of all public and private schools that have a uniform policy 23 %
Annual school uniform sales $1,300,000,000
Average annual cost to parents for school uniforms $249

These are cities with the highest rate of public schools requiring uniforms:

New Orleans 95 %
Cleveland 85 %
Chicago 80 %
Boston 65 %

Boston ranked among's top schools for education, but this could also be attributed to its extremely high per-student expenditure. (

These are the results of a survey that asked parents and teachers if they agreed with each statement:

Survey Question Parents Teachers
Policy has hindered self expression and creativity 34 % 5 %
Policy has hindered individual student’s personal liberty 36 % 0 %
Has promoted a sense of security 41 % 86 %
Has increased school pride and has created a sense of community 42 % 80 %
The school uniform has been financially beneficial for my household 49 % 86 %
Has addressed the peer pressure issue of "fitting in" by wearing specific brands 47 % 90 %
Has promoted positive student behavior 37 % 95 %
Policy has minimized disruption and distractions 38 % 81 %
Has eliminated competition among students 36 % 52 %
School uniforms have improved the learning environment 35 % 81 %
The Board should extend the school uniform policy indefinitely 42 % 81 %

22% of children live in families below the poverty level (defined as $23,550), even though research has shown that twice that is needed for a family.

In addition to the reasons against the implementation of school uniforms as listed by PRO, here are some more:

infringes on cultural/religious rights (1st Amendment violations) as well as freedom of expression
infringes on rights to education
negative economic impact on clothing manufacturers and more
discourages social interaction
stunts decision making skills of children
(doesn't prepare them for adult life)
not a real solution to any problems concerning social behavior of children
allergies to clothing materials
inflexibility based on weather
issue with teachers
(they may complain if forced to wear uniform, double standard complaints if not)
widespread discontent among students upon implementation
discourages natural human competitive nature
(esp. in teens)

Here are some in favor:

improves test scores
no dress code infractions;
Debate Round No. 2


"What should I wear today?"
That is a question that has been asked for decades by public school children everywhere. But in some schools, the answer is always the same. Schools nationwide are debating whether or not their schools will join the thousands who have chosen to have their students wear school uniforms.

This movement is taking hold in many states. Ten years ago, only 3 percent of all public schools required that students wear uniforms. By 2004, that number had risen to 14% according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Some school officials support the policy, hoping that uniforms will encourage students to focus of their work. Critics, however, state that the students should be able to express themselves via their clothing.

'Expressing themselves' has taken a sharp turn in the past ten years however. The introduction of gangs, baggy pants, revealing clothing and more relaxed attitudes in some homes have led to the advent of mandatory uniforms.

A study that was published in The Journal of Education Research, found that the uniforms did nothing to improve the student's attendance or discipline and did not decrease drug use within the schools. The study also found that it affected the students in a negative way.

But many supporters believe that the students will behave how they are dressed. If they are dressed in a tailored manner, then the students will act accordingly. Since students at some schools were upset by the fact that they had to wear uniforms while the teachers wore what they liked, schools made it mandatory that both teachers and students dress in uniforms. The change created not only a change of dress but also a change in attitude.

The problems with attitude towards the dress code seem to be with the upper grades rather than the elementary age students, who seem to like the uniforms. Adolescents seem to feel as if their freedom of choice has been stripped. Several comments have been made that this age group feels like they are in jail. Even one 8th grader that I spoke to informed me that it was "like the book 1984'.

Uniforms make schools better places in which to learn, supporters say. They argue that dress codes often improve discipline and lessen bullying and teasing.

While the cost issue for parents who struggle financially comes into question as well. Some school's uniforms are about $200 per student, which can quickly add up when a family has three to five children. While that are other schools who insist on higher-priced brand names while in Sydney, Australia, parents are dishing out as much as $1500 for a school uniform. However, much of the cost isn't the uniform itself, its dry cleaning.

Others will argue that you are violating a person's right to freedom of expression. Parents also state that public schools are running scared of gangs and violence. They question if uniforms prevent a gang member from going home after school, wearing his gang clothing, and going down the street to meet his buddies and look for action.

But in a time when kids will be beaten or even killed for a designer pair of sneakers, one must ask the question, "When does it end?" If school uniforms are stepping over the line of freedom and control then what is the answer? Even the ACLU in past years has risen up on the side of the protestors.

In Long Beach, California's schools, where the large school district required uniforms and produced favorable results, it is still a hotly debated subject. Some studies will say that this does nothing for the students while others will contest that fact.

So, is paying $200 a school year in uniforms worth the price versus the price of buying jeans and T-shirts that now fall under tighter dress codes? Even if the students don't do better academically in school, there is going to be a point when those kids will grow up into adults who have to wear a type of uniform in work force. We normally don't get choices in business clothes that we must wear. Aren't we really just preparing the children for a future of conceding to decisions already made for them or have we truly gotten tired of Orwell's vision of the future becoming a reality?

Makes Schools Safer
Supporters of uniforms claim they can increase school safety. Uniforms allow staff to quickly identify people who do not belong on campus and limit the ways that gangs can identify themselves. In 1994, Long Beach United School District in California began requiring uniforms with the hopes of improving safety. Just five years later, the overall crime rate in the district was down 91 percent. Specifically, sex offenses dropped 96 percent and number of incidents of vandalism had decreased 69 percent.

Creates a Positive Environment
When all students are dressed alike, economic and social barriers between students are reduced. There is no peer pressure to wear expensive clothes or bullying of those who can't afford designer labels. Children have one less distraction, as they do not have to concern themselves with what others are wearing. Common dress can also make students feel like they belong to the school community, increase pride and even improve attendance. A 2012 study by the University of Houston of 160 public, urban schools, found that student attendance increased after schools began mandating uniforms.

Academic Achievement
Supporters of school uniforms often cite increased academic achievement as a main reason to adopt such a policy. While there is some anecdotal evidence to support this claim, overall, studies yield inconclusive results. A study by Ryan Yeung analyzed student data collected from 1988 to 2004. His research found that although some test scores were higher for schools that required uniforms, in others, scores were actually lower.

Limits Rights
Some opponents claim that uniforms are not a fix-all for the problems that plague schools, but instead, violate a student's right to express themselves, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. They claim that a dress code can provide guidelines and exclusions for certain types of dress, such as clothing with drug references or vulgar language printed on them, while still allowing students to make their own choices and be an individual.


Uniforms in schools certainly have their advantages, but in reality, these do not even begin to compare with their disadvantages.

Given Advantages:

-Reduces crime (this IS supported by evidence, as shown by PRO)
-Enforcement (it IS easier for administration to enforce a uniform policy instead of a general dress code)
-Intruder Identification (it IS easier to tell if someone does not belong on campus)

Gang Prevention

In inner city areas, gangs do not develop entirely at schools. Many times, simple family ties will lead to gang involvement. Factors such as poor education, low incomes, and social anxiety all lead kids to actually SEEK out gangs in urban areas, and uniforms do nothing to change these factors. Moreover, in cases where gangs recruit through school systems, clothing does not and cannot be used to draw someone to a gang. Students can still approach more vulnerable peers and 'recruit' them into a gang, and often, gangs simply form from groups of friends. Uniforms do prevent gangs from identifying themselves on school campuses, but still, this does not attack the root causes and are thus ineffective.

Economic Problems

Now, how will a family with one parent, often working a minimum wage job, and multiple children be able to afford the extra hundreds of dollars per year when they struggle to even afford meals? They can't. This scenario is common in America, with 13 million single parents raising 22 million children ( This leads to my next point.

Right to Education

Uniform policies are often enforced with out-of-school suspensions, and eventually, for repeated infractions, expulsions. If all schools had uniforms, the children in the poor families mentioned above will face many problems. If they can't afford uniforms, what happens?

-They can be expelled. Then, they have no chance for an education (which is obviously necessary for social mobility, etc). Even if other schools don't have uniforms, poverty-stricken families will face problems. They send their children to the original school for a reason. A new school may require payment (if it is private) or will be far (transportation costs, job schedule issues, and more). So, that child (and many like him/her) has just been stripped of his/her educational privileges.

-They can be issued uniforms from the school. But who pays for this? Taxpayers. And we all know that people do not like higher taxes, and will certainly be upset to be charged more for something as trivial as uniforms (esp. those who are unfamiliar with their benefits). This is a more likely scenario, but will lead to the vilification of schools/legislators.

-They can be ignored. The school may simply allow some kids to show up without the uniform. However, this defeats the entire purpose of the uniform.

Religious Rights

In my old high school, there were 5-6 female students who wore traditional African-Islamic clothing every day. It is extremely likely that this resulted from their faith (or the faith of their parents). Even though this was not even a single percent of the school's population, the rights of the minority are still protected under the First Amendment. How will a uniform policy deal with students who dress in religious clothing? Create an exception? Again, this defeats many purposes of uniforms. I implore PRO to address this conundrum.

Fabric Allergies

Although it is rare, some people are allergic to clothing fabrics, or formaldehyde (a clothing finish). Uniforms are, of course, the same, so this may be difficult for some schools/families to overcome.

Economic Impact

In the US, $10 billion of revenue is generated annually from children's clothing ( Of course, companies can adapt, but both immediate and long-term effects would be felt after the implementation of wide-spread uniform policies.

-Short Term: Companies would have to switch from diverse production to manufacturing uniforms. This may be economically easier for clothing companies, but it would hurt dye suppliers, graphic designers, fashion designers, and employees.

-Long Term: Since most children's clothing companies will switch to uniform manufacturing, competition will decrease significantly. The only real way for companies to out-do each other would be to undercut competitors, since quality/design (mostly design) won't be factors. Obviously, larger companies would outlast smaller ones, and this would lead to the monopolization of uniforms/children's clothing companies.

Student Interaction

Often, kids and teens alike who want to meet new people approach peers with shirts that display a similar interest, like a TV show or band. With uniforms, students won't be able to 'break the ice,' and this may lead to social underdevelopment, especially in shyer kids.


In most cases, the bully acts aggressively or antagonistically because he/she has been victimized at home, or has an underlying psychological problem. Adding a uniform wouldn't stop any cases of bullying, because the bully would simply find another reason to 'attack,' be it that the victim is overweight, short, or has a strange accent.


Would teachers wear the uniform? If they didn't, students/parents would complain of a double standard. If they did, teachers would resist as much as students, and with more influence and tact. Not everyone can be pleased.


Enforcing a school uniform in public schools simply causes too many problems. Instead, more focus should be placed on early education, social work with disadvantaged families, improved birth control initiatives (to prevent unwanted births that end up with neglect/abuse, to prevent teen pregnancies that end educative opportunities for both the mother and child, etc.), and enforcing dress code (in order to compromise).
Debate Round No. 3


CarolHan forfeited this round.


It's unfortunate my opponent forfeited. I was looking forward to a response.

Arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 4


Sorry I forfeited. Well now I am back! Uniforms helps the kids get ready for school on time because they wouldn't have to search for clothes all over their wardrobe, cabinet, or closet choosing the perfect outfit for that day. Instead, they will have a set of clothes waiting for them 5 days in a week and wouldn't have to worry about being late at school or what they should wear. Also they wouldn't be judged on how they look by bullies because they are all wearing the same thing.



School uniforms present more problems than they solve.
In addition to legal issues involving religious freedom, they induce economic issues on both a small-scale with families and a large-scale with business. Uniforms, especially when introduced universally in public schools, make it difficult for poverty-stricken children to obtain an education. They fail to provide a reasonable solution to issues such as bullying and gang-related violence that are ever-present especially in urban areas. Stricter enforcement of a school dress code is a much more viable alternative. Finally, I would implore voters to look over both my and my opponent's arguments before reaching a decision.

I thank my opponent for the debate!
Debate Round No. 5
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