The Advantages & Disadvantages of School Uniforms

By Amy Sutton
School uniform styles and colors can vary.
School uniform styles and colors can vary.

The decision to require uniforms in schools has long been a great debate among administrators, educators, parents and students. Requiring students to wear a uniform to school has both advantages and disadvantages and there are supporters on each side of the issue who feel strongly about their opinion.

Typical School Uniform

School uniform requirements vary depending on which school a child attends, but school uniforms are generally similar in style. Boys usually wear pants or shorts of a certain color such as khaki or navy, and a dress shirt, polo shirt or sweater/sweater vest in colors such as dark green, red, navy, light blue or white.

Girls' school uniforms often include a khaki or navy jumper, skirt, pants, shorts or Capri pants. Tops are generally the same colors as the boys' shirts and may include a collared blouse, polo shirt or sweater. Accessories for both boys and girls might include a black or brown belt, shoes in a neutral color and matching socks.

Benefits of Uniforms

Those in favor of school uniforms argue that they save parents time and money when it comes to shopping for school clothes. A 2013 national survey of school leaders, published on the National Association of Elementary School Principals website, showed that the average cost of school uniforms for one year was $150 or less. Uniforms make it easier to choose what to wear to school and lessens the pressure kids feel about wearing clothes that help them fit in.

Some think a school's dress code is easier to enforce when kids are wearing uniforms as school uniforms can help students feel like part of the school community, providing them with a sense of belonging. Students are easier to identify when wearing a uniform, which makes field trips much easier and can help school staff spot people that aren't supposed to be in the school.

Proponents of school uniforms also believe that they help reduce discipline issues, improve student attendance and lessen he incidence of gangs and violence within the school. Uniforms decrease the instances of theft that often happens with expensive, designer shoes and clothing and they help students stay focused in class, notes the U.S. Department of Education website.

School Uniform Disadvantages

Opponents of school uniforms feel that school uniforms take away a child's right to dress as an individual and think that school uniforms are too expensive for low income families, especially those with multiple children.

Kids often dislike school uniforms and feel that they are not as flattering as other types of clothing, which can cause them to be more self-conscious about their image. Opponents feel that school uniforms should not be allowed in public schools, where parents already have the expense of paying school taxes, notes the Great Schools website.

School Uniform Statistics

The number of schools in the United States that require uniforms rose from 13 percent to 19 percent between 2003 and 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. More and more public schools are adopting school uniforms and schools are seeing positive outcomes. A survey of principals and school leaders showed that uniforms improved discipline by 85 percent, student safety by 79 percent, attendance by 44 percent, school pride by 77 percent and student achievement by 64 percent, notes the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

As of 2015, 23 percent of public and private schools require students to wear uniforms, states the Statistic Brain website. The cities with the most public school students that wear uniforms include Boston, Chicago, New Orleans and Cleveland.