August 2000 (Newstream) -- This fall, more public schools will turn to student uniforms to reduce the teasing and bullying that can lead to the kind of hostility and tension feared by many parents, educators and kids today.
"School kids are usually ridiculed if they aren't wearing the right brand of peer-approved clothes. In some cases, this rejection can lead to aggressive evil acts or suicide," notes family therapist Carleton Kendrick of familyeducation.com.
On September 7, Philadelphia public school students will wear uniforms for the first time, joining an estimated 11 million public school students in the US who already participate in school dress code programs (22 percent of the public school population) in places like Long Beach, CA, Dade County, FL and Houston, TX.
Survey Says It Works
The biggest news, to date, comes from New York City public schools where police department statistics report overall school crime down 14.7 percent in 2000.
After a year of dress codes, New York students are reported to have improved in everything from tolerance and a sense of belonging, to increased safety and academic performance, according to a new study by frenchtoast.com, a resource for information on school uniforms. Among other benefits, the study showed:
68 percent of parents think the uniforms helped improve the school's overall academic performance
84 percent of parents say uniforms promote equality between boys and girls and 88 percent thought they reduced boy/girl teasing
89 percent of guidance counselors say uniforms teach children to be more accepting of less fortunate kids
89 percent of guidance counselors thought uniforms prepare kids for an eventual work environment
Girls (80 percent) liked wearing the uniforms more than boys (62 percent) and 63 percent of teens age
14 and over thought uniforms reduced teasing
59 percent of guidance counselors say the uniform policy made for a safer learning environment
The Growing Uniform Business
The popularity of public school dress code policies has attracted the attention of retailers and manufacturers. French Toast, the largest manufacturer of school uniforms, has been showing annual increases of 10 percent for the past five years. Major retailers like Sears and K-mart have begun stocking uniforms in the past five years. Approximately two-thirds of uniforms are sold during the third quarter for the back-to-school season. Frenchtoast.com features over 4,000 uniform items for year-round delivery. Some 40,000 schools are listed on the site, so students and parents can check the dress code for their particular school.
The style of today's school uniforms has become more relaxed to suit the times. Some schools have adopted the look of denim shirts and khaki pants (as opposed to a conservative dark pants/skirt and white shirt/blouse). French Toast designers have also introduced a trendier three-quarter-length sleeve and cargo pockets as a concession to fashion trends. Extra durability, elasticity (for growing kids) and easy cleaning are a must for the student customer.