School Uniforms Foster Pride, Focus Students on Learning
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
Our public schools took another step forward on Wednesday when the Board of Education voted unanimously to require elementary school students to wear school uniforms starting in the fall of 1999 + while giving individual schools and parents the ability to obtain exemptions.
I've always believed that school uniforms are one important part of creating an environment in which students respect themselves, respect one another, and respect their schools as hallowed places of learning. As every parent knows, children are susceptible to peer pressure + and sometimes they come to think that their fashion choices are what define them. Often, too much emphasis is placed on what students will think of them if they wear the wrong kind of pants, shirt, skirt, or shoes.
We should convey, especially in the early grades, a different message: that children don't have to worry about whether or not they are wearing their pants correctly, or whether their parents could afford the latest pair of sneakers. If you go to school, treat teachers and other students with respect, and work hard, you can succeed. Child by child and school by school, uniforms foster pride not in owning material possessions, but in being a student. When kids wear uniforms, they learn that school + and their school in particular + is worth dressing up for.
Schools and school districts around the country that have implemented uniform policies are seeing measurable results. For example, since the public school system in Long Beach, California launched a mandatory school uniform policy in 1994, school crime there has plummeted by 76 percent. Incidents of assaults in grades K-8 have plunged by 85 percent, weapons offenses have dropped 83 percent, and vandalism has been cut in half. And over the same three-year period, K-8 attendance in the school system has reached an all-time high of 94 percent.
Of course, Chancellor Crew and I don't look at this policy as a panacea for every school or every student. It has already taken a whole set of intelligent initiatives, and no shortage of hard work, to begin turning our schools around. Now, with student achievement on the rise + including sustained gains on third and sixth grade reading tests across the City + we know we must further enhance accountability, raise standards, and implement more instructional innovations. We'll advance Project Smart Schools, Project Arts and Project Read, and work hard to end tenure for principals, reform special education, and eliminate social promotions, among other things.
But as one important component in this overall plan to improve our public schools, the uniform policy is something to celebrate. When we successfully teach all our children about self-respect, respect of one another, and respect for their learning environment, we will go a long way toward building a better future for New York City.