2017-01-11 / Columns

LEDGER COLUMNIST

School uniforms idea sparks lots of discussion
CODY SOSSAMON
Ledger Publisher

A bill has been pre-filed in the SC House of Representatives that would require all public school students to wear uniforms to school. The idea is not as unorthodox as you might think. About 19 percent of all public school students in the U.S are now required to wear uniforms to school, according to a story by the Raycom News network.

We posted a poll question about this on our website, www.gaffneyledger.com a few days ago and in early voting, the “Yes’ votes hold a slight lead over the ‘No’ and ‘Need More Info’ votes.

In thinking about how I would vote in the poll I thought back to my days in public school. Granted, that was a long time ago, and fashions have changed numerous times over the years, but kids are still kids.

In my elementary days, I recall wearing blue jeans and either a flannel long-sleeved shirt or short-sleeved T-shirt, depending on the season. But always blue jeans. Even in the hot early fall or hot late spring.

Shoot, I wore blue jeans year-round. Shorts were for sissies. The only time my legs were bare was when I was in the swimming pool or bathtub.

In high school, I think I wore khaki pants and a button down dress shirt most of the time.

No one was allowed to wear shorts (except on BERMUDA SHORTS DAY!) and girls had to wear skirts or dresses — no jeans or pants. The hemline had to come to the knees.

What a difference a few decades make, huh? If you don’t believe me, head over to the high school about the time the final bell rings and see for yourself.

There are good arguments for and against uniforms for students, but while we’re at it maybe we can throw teachers in the mix.

I think the main argument against uniforms is cost.

According to the Raycom article, Tanya Beutow, a mother of eight from Jasper, Ala., prefers not having uniforms, saying they are generally too expensive for her family.

“As a parent of a large family, I often shop at the thrift store for jeans and jackets. And as a seamstress, I make a large portion of my children’s wardrobe,” Beutow said. “It is much cheaper and quicker for me to stitch up an outfit to replace one that is stained beyond use or outgrown, than it is to have to purchase a specific set of clothes.”

Of the SC bill, the SC Policy Council says, “Uniforms would have to be made available at an affordable price for the average family, and the DOE would have to create a provision in the uniform rules to ‘assist students eligible for free or reduced school lunches in obtaining at least five sets of school uniforms for each season.’”

OK, how much will this cost taxpayers? Could that money be spent on more useful purposes?

On the other hand, a 2013 survey of school principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Lands’ End shows that 64 percent of public school principals surveyed say that uniforms “positively impacted student achievement at their school.”

Lands’ End, I suppose, sells uniforms.

There are those, too, who argue that uniforms cost less in the long run. Locally, students at the Village School wear uniforms and on a recent field trip to The Ledger, I must say that all looked pretty spiffy.

Some proponents point out that in the real world, employees must adhere to a workplace dress code and that uniforms are a way to prepare them for what’s coming after graduation. Others think problems such as bullying would diminish, attendance increase and peer pressure be reduced.

With this proposal, like just about every other thing in America these days, half are for it and half are against it.

I would guess a poll of parents would be close to 50-50. Teachers maybe the same. Students? 99-1 opposed is my guess.

Maybe all of them would not be against it, now that I think about it. Those who play sports love uniforms, right?

In recalling my days as a parent of a school-age child, I would have loved uniforms. Picking out the day’s outfit often turned into a battle royal — with all my children.

I doubt this bill has much chance of passing as legislators have more pressing matters with which to attend. That and they don’t want the controversy that will surely develop.

If, and that is a big IF, it does become law, I suggest the policy be implemented in stages. Maybe begin with first grade and move up each year.

“[on school uniforms] Don’t these schools do enough damage making all these kids think alike, now they have to make them look alike too? it’s not a new idea, either. i first saw it in old newsreels from the 1930s, but it was hard to understand because the narration was in German.” — George Carlin —————————

Cody Sossamon (cody@gaffneyledger.com) is publisher of The Gaffney Ledger.

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