School uniform policies promote acceptance, inclusion for students across social barriers

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From kindergarten through 12th grade, I had a school uniform. I wore the typical plaid skirts and polos, and attended a school where for the most part, we all looked the same.

While many condemn uniforms as being restricting of a person’s individuality, based on my experience I think there are many benefits to school uniforms.

School uniforms are often associated with private schools, but many public schools also that have a uniform. The National Center for Education Statistics said that in the 2011-2012 school year, 19 percent of public schools reported their students wore uniforms.

There is a large variety to what constitutes a school uniform. Many schools have their students dress in school colors, or in clothing that bears the school’s logo. Some schools require students to buy their clothing from a particular manufacturer, but many items can be bought at any typical retail store.

While a school uniform at first might sound restricting, school uniforms can actually help reduce social pressure and allow students to thrive at school. The standardization of dress that a uniform provides promotes inclusion and prevents bullying.

When everyone is wearing identical clothing, the chances of someone “standing out” due to their outward appearance is lowered.

In middle school and high school, cliques are often formed by groups of people with the same interests and personalities. In many cases, these cliques are based on appearances, making what clothing people are wearing very important. This is made even more so by social media, which can create further social pressure on individuals to look and act a certain way.

However, not everyone can afford certain types of clothing, and not everyone shares the same fashion sense. School uniforms help erase the tension that comes with trying to fit in to the “in crowd” at school.

Some schools even go so far as to ban uniforms that have logos on them – for example, students cannot wear polo shirts that have the logo of whatever brand is popular at the time. This further sets all students on a level playing field, as the more expensive brands of school uniforms are not allowed.

In addition, the pressure put on students to dress a certain way is reduced when school uniforms are implemented. The reduction of social pressure allows students to put their focus elsewhere: for example, on their schoolwork, their extracurricular activities or their community.

While differences between students clearly still exist, and uniforms will not prove to be the destruction of all cliques, school uniforms do help eradicate one source of social pressure and division.

Some claim that having a uniform reduces a student’s ability to be an individual and express themselves. However, having a uniform simply provides opportunities for individuality that are not based upon a person’s looks.

It is important to teach children, beginning at a young age, that individuality means more than how you look. Having the opportunity to choose clothing is undoubtedly important, but there are other things that hold a greater weight.

For example, students who wear uniforms prove their individuality by choosing their friends based on their hobbies and their personalities, rather than the brand of clothing that they wear.

Having a uniform does not damper a person’s ability to be an individual – rather, it opens up the eyes of the community to see things they might not have before.

Additionally, once students graduate from middle school or high school, they will then have the chance to experiment with clothing, hairstyles and whatever else they wish.

In a person’s younger years, when what you wear and how you look are often considered to be more important, a uniform policy provides an alternative for schools who want their students to focus on other, more important things, like schoolwork, friends and family. Implementing a change such as this into a school can definitely make a difference.