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School Uniforms and Their Impact on Students

Do school uniforms help or harm students’ academic performance and personal lives? The question remains unanswered and continues to gain controversy from parents and their kids as more schools decide to implement the school uniform policy linking it to safer education. School regulations on clothes become quite challenging as strict dress codes and uniforms are regarded as detrimental to students’ self-expression as well as global efforts towards diversity in an educational environment. Despite the fact that school uniforms may have a positive effect on academic performance and discipline, dress code regulations are a threat to individuality, cultural diversity, and gender fluidity that schools should foster among their students.

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The gender expression of students is at risk because of school uniforms that disregard the modern realities of gender fluidity. Traditional uniforms systematically exclude non-conforming students as well as “reinforce and reproduce traditional gender norms” (Edwards and Marshall 6). Sex-based attire and dress codes continue to sexualize young girls’ bodies. School uniforms can help to develop a particular disciplinary philosophy among students (Baumann and Krskova 1011). Students struggling with their sexuality or gender identity should have a right to inclusive uniforms.

Dress code regulations usually ignore the ethnic and racial backgrounds of students. Diversity is one of the integral elements of an inclusive and globalized world of the twenty-first century. It becomes hard for students to accept their peers’ differences and nourish their own because of dress codes that are predominantly “written in racially coded language” (Edwards and Marshall 5). School attire that expresses students’ ethnic background is often considered ‘inappropriate,’ which leads to bullying from peers and institutionalized discrimination. The biggest myth, however, comes from the idea that uniforms are an effective way to fight bullying based on students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. In fact, obligatory school attire encourages the socioeconomic divisions that it is supposed to eliminate. High-poverty school districts are the ones that require uniform policy implementation the most. Students’ freedom of expression is arguably at a greater risk.

Appearance serves as a way for teenagers to express their beliefs, preferences, and attitudes towards social or political issues. The Supreme Court’s 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines solidified the right to freedom of expression all students should be granted (Dagley and Weiler 210). Black armbands that Mary Beth Tinker wore to protest the Vietnam War remain a symbol of teenage empowerment in educational settings. Proponents of uniforms argue that appropriate clothes can positively influence academics as they “keep students focused on their education”. Certain studies, however, found that school uniforms are ineffective in regard to academic achievements. Obligatory school attire therefore eradicates teenagers’ right to express themselves and has no impact on their performance as well.

School uniforms often disregard students’ rights to self-expression, including their ethnic and gender identity. Positive effects of such attire are apparent in regards to the academic discipline and quite questionable when it comes to students’ overall performance. Considering these effects, it would be reasonable to suggest appropriate changes in uniform design and dress code regulations. The conversation should be open between parents, students, educators, and government officials. Discussion based on students’ personal experiences as well as scientific findings is crucial to potential dress code changes. Modern educational setting requires official to either abolish school uniforms or modify them according to the needs of a new, open-minded, and diverse generation.

Works Cited

Baumann, Chris, and Hana Krskova. “School Discipline, School Uniforms, and Academic Performance.” International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 30, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1003-1029.

Dagley, Amy, and Spencer C. Weiler. “Do Courts Consider the Degree of Discipline When Adjudicating Off-campus Student Speech?” The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 2017, vol. 90, no. 5-6, pp. 208-213.

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Edwards, Torie K., and Catherine Marshall. “Undressing Policy: A Critical Analysis of North Carolina (USA) Public School Dress Codes.” Gender and Education, 2018, pp. 1-19.

ProCon.org. “School Uniforms.” ProCon.org. 2020. Web.

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