September 10, 2006

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- Tyler Heights Elementary School and Meade Middle School recently became the first public schools in Anne Arundel County to require students to wear uniforms, following a national trend in which a quarter of public elementary schools have some sort of mandatory policy.

Under a new county policy allowing uniforms, a school's parents must be polled, and 70 percent of parents must return the surveys.

Of those respondents, 80 percent must be in favor of uniforms. The school community must then research what kind of policy, mandatory or voluntary, it wants, what the uniforms will be, how much they will cost, and where families can buy them.

Two Anne Arundel charter schools also have uniforms.

Advocates say dressing uniformly eliminates the social pressures and expense of buying trendy or flashy clothes and encourages children to behave better and get serious about learning. They also say it helps improve safety by making students easily identifiable.

Others who have studied the issue say there is no proof that uniforms provide a benefit.

Is it a good idea to require students at public schools to wear uniforms?

Uniforms? Why has it taken so long?

Of course it is a good idea to require school students to wear uniforms. It has worked in private schools for decades. What's perplexing is why it has taken so long for the public schools in Anne Arundel County to catch on, and why the county school board mandates that 80 percent of parents in each school must be in favor of school uniforms before a policy is enacted.

There is no downside to a uniform policy. It promotes equality, and takes the focus of the children away from their apparel and toward learning. Some disgruntled parents seeking to recapture their youth via their children's wardrobes will always promote the concept of individual freedom and freedom of expression over learning.

To ensure that these parents don't have a voice, the school board should require that 51 percent of parents express their support of a school uniform policy, at which point the school should be required to mandate a policy as soon as is practical.

Michael P. DeCicco Severn

Let us count ways uniforms can help

Give us the uniforms ... What is taking so long? It definitely would help in many other ways, like the arguments parents get from children every morning: 1. I don't know what to wear. 2. Where is my new shirt? I can't find my clothes. 3. Someone took my clothes. 4. I can't wear that! There's another kid wearing that. 5. You didn't wash my best outfit so I'm not going to school. 6. That shirt is ruined because someone tried to tear it off of me. 7. I have to wear all black. It's cool. Cool counts, not grades. 8. Everyone will laugh at me if I don't wear what is cool.

So let's be parents and take charge. Let's require uniforms - the sooner the better - and give parents peace and make schools more productive.

A grandmother of five, I have seen it both ways, and uniforms are better. Children need structure. School is not a fashion show. They need to learn. Uniforms will help make a safer school, happier children with better grades and calmer parents.

Mary Moore Pasadena

Dress code gives sense of equality

Uniforms add a nuance to the learning environment that creates an atmosphere of equality, self-discipline, camaraderie and team spirit.

Uniforms signify inclusivity - so important to children - by removing conspicuous economic differences and petty fashion competitiveness.

The wearing of uniforms allows children the freedom to define themselves by channeling their natural competitive instincts toward healthy activities, including academic achievement, creativity and sports.

As long as schools don't get stupid by selling their uniform design to corporate sponsors, the question should be, "Why aren't more public schools adopting a uniform policy?"

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

Experience teaches uniforms are better

Having spent 12 years in Catholic elementary and high schools in the 1940s to early 1950s, I'm convinced that uniforms are very beneficial and should be mandatory for all students in Anne Arundel County.

In the schools that I and my two sisters attended, girls were required to wear a uniform jumper and a white blouse. Boys were required to wear long pants, white shirt and a tie. In high school boys were also required to wear a jacket.

I believe the uniform and dress code reinforced the atmosphere of learning and discipline. Our teachers (all were nuns in those days) did not have to waste half their time disciplining students. Students respected the teachers and each other. There were no contests to see who could wear the most outrageous clothing or baggiest pants, or reveal the most skin. My mother always said that uniforms made life easier and reduced expenses for school clothing.

Joseph G. McClellan Severna Park

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