April 18, 2013 10:43:59 AM
The Lowndes County School District's decision to make uniforms mandatory district-wide beginning next year has met vocal resistance from some quarters. While the passion behind the opposition to school uniforms is not to be dismissed, it is hard to estimate how widespread the opposition to the new policy really is.
Only half the parents responded to the district's survey on whether or not they supported going to uniforms. Of those who did respond, the parents were opposed by a 3-to-2 margin.
While the school board's decision to go against the popular sentiment and adopt a uniform policy anyway might further fuel objections, it should be noted that school uniforms have generally been accepted once the decision was made.
Students at West Lowndes schools have had uniforms for several years and there is virtually no resistance to the policy now.
According to the latest statistics on school uniforms compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, 23 percent of all public schools have a uniform policy. The average annual cost to parents is $249.
A survey of parents and teachers on the use of school uniforms suggests that while parents are generally supportive of uniforms, teachers approve by an overwhelming majority.
For example, 90 percent of teachers "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that having uniforms has addressed the peer pressure of "fitting in" that comes with brand awareness. Ninety-five percent agreed or strongly agreed that uniforms promoted positive student behavior, while 86 percent said it promoted a sense of security at school. Eighty-one percent said the uniform policy has minimized disruption and distraction, and the same percentage said uniforms have improved the learning environment.
As for the perceived negatives, just five percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that uniforms hindered self-expression and creativity. Fewer than one percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that the policy has hindered students' personal liberties.
Schools all over the Golden Triangle have uniforms and it has long since ceased to be a point of contention.
It is likely that will be the case with the Lowndes County schools, too.
With all due respect to those parents who object to school uniforms, we believe that kind of passion is better reserved for other matters that are of far greater importance. Would that parents would be passionate over curriculum and funding. Would that they would be passionate in attending PTA meetings and school board meetings.
The challenges that face our schools are many and serious. Parental involvement in those areas could make a real difference.
School uniforms? We strongly suspect it is a matter of preference more than of substance.