This is a modified copy of an e-mail response I sent to a student wanting information for a school debate on uniforms.
(Edited version v1.2)
31 May 1999
I read many other sites before I put the School Uniform web site http://www.rag.org.au/school/inform.htm up for a community group who were having trouble with a school's administration (which has since been found to have been acting unlawfully by the Queensland State Ombudsman). See http://www.rag.org.au/school/ombudsman.htm
I can appreciate the wearing of school uniforms as identifying uniform so teenage intruders on school property can easily be identified. One could also extent this to all schoolteachers and school staff also. As many unlawful acts such as abduction are carried out by adults on school property during school hours and being able to identify non-staff adults is most probable more important than non-students. (Queensland has introduced a non-compulsory staff uniform). Most recent attacks in North America where firearms were involved were carried out by students from the school involved.
Maybe your debate could express great merit in all staff members dress in similar uniform along with cleaning staff, office staff, ground staff, tuck shop staff, (canteen staff for over seas readers), temporary teachers, official visitors especially the Minister for Education (of course he/she would need a different uniform to comply with each school he visits). Because when the school staff lead by example the students are more likely to follow with less resistance. (or at least let them think so.)
One web site that caught my eye was in England maybe Middlesex School??? It doesn't matter exactly where but what it was saying was the school uniform had to be affordable and easily accessible. Not special material or special patterns. Available from what could be KMART, Coles, Target, etc. (major Australian stores). Or parents could easily make their uniforms.
Should school uniform code extend to underwear colour? Should this underwear colour be binding on both male and female students? Then should the same restriction on colour (USA color) extent to the staff uniform code? And a question that should be raised is who will inspect and enforce staff underwear code? What penalty will be imposed if a staff member or volunteer parent breach an underwear code?
Should female students be allowed to wear bicycle shorts under their short sports skirts? If not, what reasons can be set out to justify banning their wearing of bicycle shorts. Maybe just a few male teachers would lose their views.
Some Schools don't have compulsory uniforms and students still learn in that environment. An amount can be said for a uniform equalising students where the rich come well dressed and the poor come in cheaper clothing thus "the have and the have nots".
One thing I object to is Parents and Citizen Associations (P&C) introducing uniforms into a school which tries to makes a non-compulsory uniform into a compulsory uniform where the cost forces students within that's school catchment area to attend another school because of cost of that special uniform.
So do I also object to any school administration which stops a student entering a classroom unless in full school uniform. "Clothes don't make the man (or woman) but education does." It may make him/her look a bit better but that doesn't put food on the table.
I also object even more strongly to such P&C Assn. forcing a strict dress code when they don't even follow their own constitution. I attended two P&C meetings at a school where a dress code was strictly enforced only to find a teacher (of another school) as the President of the P&C for two or three years who was not complying with the P&C constitution in a big way. Deciding the date of Annual General Meetings (AGM) in executive committee instead of at the last General Meeting for the financial year. Then as the Chairperson trying to move a motion from the Chair to ratify that decision. Then at the AGM not having the Audited Accounts available for two years in succession at the AGM as required by their own Constitution.
If uniforms are to be compulsory then who will pay for them, upkeep them, wash them, and replace them?
You may not agree with these question but say a student from a an underprivileged family during winter spills some food or whatever on their only jumper or coat at breakfast and has no time to wash or dry the jumper or coat. Must that child miss out on education that day because they are not wearing the correct jumper or coat?
Couldn't the student bring a note from their parents you may ask? Then the following must be taken into account. The student is of a one-parent family and parent has already left for work and is no one at home to write a note explaining why the child is not in full uniform.
At the school above, the students were given the option to sit all day in a room near the administration office or take off the non-uniform jumper or coat and go into class and shiver all day. Not all schools have central heating or any other type of heating. This school has not any form of heating or insulation.
Should the school administration be responsible in having a clean, pressed jumper available for that student for the day? What about children of parents who move regularly? Uniforms are expensive.
What about the colour of shoes? When I have needed to buy my daughter a new pair of shoes in the past we were lucky to find a pair which would fit her feet even after 20 shoe shops. We had little choice of colour or mix of colours when shoes that fitted were found. My eldest Daughter takes 10.5 men's in a very wide fitting. I take 11.5 even wider. Shoe manufactures make shoes for fashion not for school uniform compliance.
Some average parents and school staff in committee agree on a colour and design for all uniform items and have not any clue on how it will affect the whole school community during the duration of that uniform code's usage.
When P&C abide by their own rules they may be in a situation to make some MINOR decision about non-compulsory student's uniforms. School uniforms enforcement in most cases except for student identification purposes are just a power play over students' lives. Students are not identified by shoes and sock or shoelace colour are they, if so, why does the uniform extend to these items of apparel where a child is bullied by teachers.
Some teachers and administrators carry on Social Engineering, and other teachers pursue an intellectual game amongst other teachers as to which teacher can give the most detentions or pick on one or other student the most. I don't see as the colour of shoes, socks as being necessary to identify students at school.
Maybe schools should be responsible to stock all items of uniform in a complete range of sizes including shoes. If they are not willing to do this then they should not be able enforce any items not presently available in their uniform store.
One school principal has told me recently that without strict uniform policy they would have the necessary control over the students. I'm certain they would find some alternate form game to play if uniforms were truly non-compulsory.
I attended a primary school without any uniform policy and a secondary school, which had a policy. I never had any problems and I never looked for any. But knowing what I know now, the same may not be said if I had my time over again!
I hope that the above is some insight into some the school uniform debate.
You have my permission to quote me from this page and the school uniform web site.
This page is maintained by
The Rivermouth Action Group Inc
as a community service.