Schools have a right to exercise their need to develop and maintain a nurturing environment which could result in inadvertently utilizing school uniforms to shame students. Shaming and humiliating a child can have long term devastating effects which can cause students to lose respect for teachers and the schools that they attend. Schools can eliminate the possibility of school uniforms shaming students by intertwining marketing activities that associate school uniforms with student importance and pride.

In the United States, a movement toward using uniforms in state schools began when Bill Clinton addressed it in the 1996 State of the Union, saying: “If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms.” As of 1998 approximately 25% of all U.S. public elementary, middle and junior high schools had adopted a uniform policy or were considering a policy, and two thirds were implemented between 1995 and 1997.

In 1994, the Long Beach Unified School District conducted a study regarding the effectiveness of school uniforms. The study found that wearing school uniforms resulted in:

  • Fewer absences and truancies
  • Fewer referrals to the office for behavior problems
  • Fewer suspensions and expulsions
  • Reduced by 28% (elementary) and 36% (middle school)
  • Decreased crime and vandalism
  • Reduced by 74% (elementary) and 18% (middle school)
  • Better grades, and in some cases, significantly higher achievement

However, other researchers reported that school uniforms were not an effective deterrent to:

  • Decreasing truancy
  • Did not decrease behavior problems
  • Decreasing substance use
  • Eliminating the student achievement gap

It is thought that school uniforms provide an opportunity to act as a catalyst for transforming a school district alongside other initiatives.

Researchers have also reported that despite the inconclusiveness of the effects of school uniforms, they have become more common because they have responded to issues regarding children’s rights, used for increased social control, and are related to racial, class, and gender inequalities in schools.

Children who experience inequalities are at risk for a multitude of adverse developmental outcomes throughout the lifespan. Children who experience inequalities are less likely to complete high school are more likely to become teenage parents, to be unemployed, or to be incarcerated, which eventually leads to lost productivity and increased social expenditures such as the school to prison pipeline.

The experience of inequalities directly impacts children’s health and development which increases the likelihood of language delays, poor nutrition, chronic illness, and, most critically, by leading to toxic stress and compromising brain development. It is a well-known fact that the academic achievement gap is associated with the inequalities that children face.

The inequality with schools uniforms is associated with it’s geographical distribution. Decades ago, school uniforms were mostly worn by students who went to private or parochial schools. However, the requirement for wearing school uniforms is attached to many  urban school districts.

In the Long Beach Unified School District former 4th and 5th grade elementary and all middle school students felt that school uniforms did not lessen the occurrence of fights and a majority of students did not feel safer at school. Furthermore, high school students oppose school uniforms due to the implied restriction of freedom, uniform expense, and many have found ways to manipulate the uniform to their liking.

Wearing school uniforms shames students through the association with many lower level employment opportunities too. Many of the employment opportunities associated with wearing school uniforms will not meet the needs of student goals and aspirations.

If education continues to teach students to have creativity, then being forced to wear a school uniform every day will eventually take a toll on a student and continue to bring shame. Furthermore, students are shamed because the educators that teach them are not required to wear a school uniform.

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All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


          Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

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“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”  

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