K-12 public schools in the US should enforce uniforms


Lily Washburn

Students walk between classes during the mid-morning break at Kalani High School. Public schools in Hawaii do not enforce uniform policies.

Jake Taylor, Opinion

It isn’t a surprise that uniform policies are being made in schools across America, considering their many benefits. Many public schools are gradually switching to a school uniform system; as of Jan. 1, 2023, one in every five public schools in the United States requires students to wear uniforms.

Public schools in the United States, ranging from elementary to high school, should require students to wear uniforms during school hours because they create safer school environments and improve students’ discipline and punctuality.

K-12 schools that adopted school uniform policies have increased discipline levels among students, leading to safer school environments. Jay Wheeler, a School Board member of Osceola County, Florida, reported that the schools within the county had a 46% reduction in gang-related activities after their first school year enforcing a mandatory K-12 uniform policy. When a uniform policy was implemented during the 2009 – 2010 school year at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, local police data showed a 63% decrease in police log reports; there was a reduction in student fights, gang-related activities, graffiti, and property damage. The data shown in these two instances display the correlation between school uniforms and school environments (affected by the discipline level among students), and how establishing uniform policies can create a safer environment for students and school staff.

Not only did uniform policies in schools across the country create safer school environments, but they have also been shown to reduce absences and increase student punctuality. A group of researchers at the University of Houston found that the average absence rate in Houston for schools that adopted a school uniform policy during the 2008 – 2009 school year has decreased by 7% for middle and high school girls and 4% for middle and high school boys. These percentages translate to 29,482 fewer absences for Houston schools during the 2008-2009 school year. Youngstown State University conducted a study regarding schools in one of Ohio’s largest school districts. They researched the relationship between attendance rates and school uniforms in Ohio schools. They found that four of the six test schools experienced an average 3.5% increase in attendance, or approximately 75 fewer absences, while the other two experienced a lesser decrease in attendance.

Although statistics show increased discipline and punctuality among students with a uniform policy, some may argue that school uniforms go against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, restricting students from expressing themselves freely. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the United States Supreme Court stated, “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” School uniforms may go against free expression, but they don’t prevent students from exercising their right to free speech and exercise. The Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case concluded that a student’s constitutional right to free speech “does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing” and that a student’s choice of clothing is not considered pure speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Evidence shows how beneficial school uniforms are and how establishing uniform policies in K-12 public schools in the United States improves society. School uniforms create safer school environments and improve student discipline and punctuality, which is why all public schools in the United States should have a uniform policy.

To all who are proponents of establishing school uniforms in public schools in America, spread the word about the benefits of these policies.