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Survey Says………

No matter where you currently stand on the issue of uniform dress,
below are some things that the Clifton Board of Education
should consider before finalizing a decision on
School Uniforms and Standardized Dress.

The Clifton School Uniform Survey
says that they are considering contemporary uniforms in an effort to:

Promote a Better Learning Environment

            As far as a better learning environment is concerned, most of these claims are anecdotal, or based upon hearsay, propaganda, or advertising. Good teachers and administrators that enforce dress codes and anti-bullying policies are the real force behind any exceptional learning environment.

“The Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement”  Dr. David L. Brunsma and Kerry A. Rockquemore’s study  published in The Journal of Education Research (Volume 92, Number 1, Sept./Oct. 1998, pp. 53-62)

A library citation (ERIC) for this paper is at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ576443&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ576443

A discussion of this paper can be found at:

“Order in the Classroom: Violence, Discipline, and Student Achievement” by Paul E. Barton, et al
and published by the Educational Testing Service (ETS)

    “The notions that school uniforms and zero tolerance for gangs would reduce school disorder and consequently improve student academic performance were not supported.” Pg. 18

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is the largest testing organization in the country, administrating the SAT and GRE tests among others.

The organization "Prevent School Violence" has an official policy that uniforms do not solve problems with violence in schools.

The School Uniform / Standardized Dress policy in Nashville TN schools has been very controversial.
This is a paper presented by then-student Charles Badger to refute the primary arguments for the Nashville policy:
(Note that the Nashville policy has since been overturned: http://www.nashvillempass.blogspot.com/)


Increase Self Esteem

            It is not safe or fair to assume that uniforms increase student self esteem across the board. There will certainly be numerous students who will suffer emotionally from this form of group punishment. Why should the bright, creative, academically gifted children who dress appropriately in socially acceptable, traditional American clothes have to suffer because of other students who refuse to follow the rules? Shouldn't it matter if this will affect them adversely?

            What about the female students? Why should their clothing options be restricted to a pants only wardrobe? Note that the survey says "skorts", not skirts. Skorts are shorts with a panel. They are generally knee length or shorter. The trend for many uniform codes is to no longer allow traditional skirts to be worn. This could include even the most modest ankle length long skirts that are worn by many women and girls due to their various religious or moral beliefs. Should these students be forced to choose between long pants or violating a uniform code? How would this improve their self esteem?

            Oddly enough, in the 1970's, wearing pants to school was forbidden for American girls, and only skirts and dresses were allowed. This exemplifies just how ridiculous and subject to fashion trends uniforms and dress policies can be.

            In one nearby town, one male member of their board of education has been published stating that skorts ensure modesty. http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/58343242.html Tell that to the female student who feels uncomfortable in anything other than a long skirt. On the other hand, even if you are someone comfortable with shorter skirts, just how appropriate is it for this person to be dictating the modesty of female students to that kind of extreme? Can it be that traditional skirts or dresses are now going to be considered inappropriate wear for females? Apparently so, because this is happening across the country.

            Is it still safe to assume that our right to dress our children in clothing that appropriately reflects our religious beliefs will be protected? Perhaps not. For example NJ State Law does not mandate an Opt Out Policy for parents who want to opt out of mandatory school uniforms or standardized dress policies due to Religious, Philosophical, Medical or Other reasons. See this ruling: http://blog.nj.com/ledgerupdates_impact/2009/03/a4975-06.pdf. This ruling only states that a school MAY provide one, not that it must. An attorney for one NJ town has been published stating that religious attire including the various forms of head covering associated with a number of religions would have to be kept within their uniform policy's color scheme in order to be allowed: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/03/court_upholds_south_jersey_sch.html.

            There are many countries that severely restrict religiously oriented articles of clothing, but since when in America does the government mandate that religious articles conform to certain color schemes? Any uniform policy without a mandated provision to opt out does not serve to increase the self esteem of these students and parents who could be singled out because of their beliefs. That is why the only acceptable school uniform or standardized dress policy is a voluntary one.

            This current legal situation may also be leaving children with certain medical conditions at risk. What about students who suffer from obesity who might not feel comfortable in clothing that restricts their ability to adjust their appearance? Will the less attractively fitting clothing that is often required to be tucked in increase their self esteem? No. Would it work for you? Or the child that suffers from skin rashes brought about by the polyester in some uniforms? Or the special education student who may suffer from a particular disfigurement who must now deal with clothing that is less flattering. What about those whose particular medical conditions make it difficult to distinguish between individuals wearing uniforms? All of these students could suffer significant emotional and social consequences from a uniform policy. Hopefully there are other ordinances that will protect them from any discrimination brought about by a mandatory uniform dress policy.

            A mandatory policy that is met with contempt by any number of students and parents surely does little to increase school spirit. Certainly those who are forced into submission against their beliefs will not agree that their self esteem has been increased. How does a uniform policy that mandates that everyone must look alike in order to succeed increase the self esteem of children from varied cultural backgrounds? In a country and a city that places a high value on diversity, how does such a policy really help to end discrimination based on looks? Does it teach children tolerance and respect for diversity? What is the difference between the color of a layer of cloth and the color of ones skin? There is no respect for diversity when those who are different are forced to hide their differences in order to receive what should be a Free Public Education. Will this proposed uniform policy really serve to increase the self esteem of Clifton's very diverse student body, or is it merely an organized means to stifle that diversity?



Comments after implementation of the Lodi NJ uniform policy:

NJ Court Ruling supporting Uniform Policies:

Pleasantville Controversy:


The Clifton School Uniform Survey says that in many cases this has resulted in:

  • Better Test Scores
  • Improvements in Student Achievement

            There is no empirical evidence to support these claims. Major studies (see above) actually have found the opposite is true and in some cases test scores have suffered. Do the research for yourself and see. In fact there is even evidence showing that students who have been opted out of uniform dress programs score higher than their uniformed counterparts.


The Clifton School Uniform Survey says that the cost of the uniforms would be just about the same as everyday clothing, perhaps even less!

            A mandatory school uniform or standardized dress policy is really an extra tax in disguise. As for uniforms costing less than everyday clothing, uniform purchases are IN ADDITION to the everyday clothing that you have to purchase anyway. Being expected to purchase special clothing and school patches from special stores in order to be allowed to send your child to a public school in your own town is an unnecessary expense and bother. In some cases stores, or perhaps the store, has run out of supplies, or the school decides to change the color of the clothes the next year.

            The bottom line is that a Free Public Education should be free. It should be valued as one of the major benefits of living in this country.

            Whether or not you save money or lose money with uniforms depends upon just how wealthy you are. Those who are wealthy generally buy more expensive clothing for their children and will probably save money on the uniforms. But unfortunately, as is often the case, those who are not wealthy will have to pay more. Oftentimes the poor end up paying more because those in power don't have the same life experiences to draw from and unknowingly miss the fact that a policy that benefits the 'haves' may not do the same for the 'have-nots'. Considering the current economic crisis, increased unemployment, and recession, many families are relying on consignment stores, thrift shops, garage sales and hand-me-downs instead of shopping at the usual stores for clothing.

            The survey says that prices for these potential uniform outfits range from $20 to $30. Let's take the lower price of $20 and times it by 13, the number of years from K-12. The absolute minimum extra cost could be $260, but children get older and the price naturally increases by $5 to $10. Most people will want a few outfits, if they are able to afford it, so that they don't have to do laundry all the time. (Causing an increase in bills for resources such as electricity, gas, and water bill/sewer usage.) So multiply that figure again. Of course children grow and wear out their clothes and you may need replacement  outfits that very same year, so multiply it again.

            Don't forget that these prices are for the first year and will certainly increase over time with inflation. You can't expect the prices to be the same 12 years from now. So add that on too. Also, there is no guarantee that once the policy is locked in place and the arrangement is made with the vendor that the prices won't increase at a later date. What if a different vendor is chosen to save money in the future and the uniform changes? In that case you may have to start all over.

            Then there are the special shoes and belts that may be required. Often schools expect only plain black or white shoes with no visible decorations, logos or lettering on them, and belts of certain colors and measurements. So you can add an extra set of special shoes and belts to your shopping list. And don't forget about those special cardigan/vest sweaters that the survey says will also be available as an option. Plain socks don't cost very much, but keep in mind that expensive legal battles have occurred in this country over ridiculous things like violating a school dress code by wearing 'Tigger" socks. Will our school budget be prepared to handle this kind of thing? That's right, Tigger from "Winnie the Pooh", $95,000. So beware.

            Let's say that you could end up paying between $100 -$200 per year per child, maybe more. Does your family have more than one child? Then take these figures, including the additional expenses and future price increases, multiply it by the number of children you have and how many years you expect each one of them to be in the Clifton Public School System and you will have a more accurate view of just how much this idea is going to cost you. Even if you take the lower figure of $100 and times it by 13, it will still come out to a whopping $1,300 per child. That's an estimated expense of $1,300 for a School Uniform Policy and some promises. Compare that to $0 for a Free Public Education with an enforced dress code and anti-bullying policy.

            There are a significant number of children in our district who are not able or expected to pay the full price for school lunch. Will the Clifton Board of Education's budget be extended to cover the cost of their uniforms? This can be many thousands of dollars. If the BOE expects to rely on donations, is there any way to predict the future benevolence of these donors? How will a school budget that has already experienced numerous cutbacks ever get passed if it has to absorb this cost?

Taxpayers have little to gain from a uniform dress policy.

  • First if they have children in the system, they will have to pay for extra clothes.
  • Secondly, it will cause the school budget and therefore taxes to increase.
  • Third, if you are a homeowner, your property value could go down if Clifton adapts the stigmatized uniform dress of other lower income districts that have instituted these policies. If it looks like you live in "the hood" it could affect the resale value of your home.


About the "Tigger" lawsuit:

About the $95,000 settlement:

None of this costs less than a Free Public Education and an administration that enforces
a reasonable existing dress and anti-bullying code.

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