HB Upper School Uniforms

by Jenna Hahn

Walking through the halls of the middle school neighborhoods at HB, you might hear a few girls complaining about their shirts having to be tucked in or their skirts having to be fingertip length. You can see why any girl would get tired of wearing the same ensemble of plaid and collared shirts day after day. In the transition into high school, we were often warned about the new responsibilities that came with the various new freedoms. Although we were all excited about free periods and no assigned seats, the most exciting feature of our new lives as high school students was no uniforms. Many students across the nation would most likely agree with our negative attitude towards uniforms. For example, Lancaster City Schools, in Lancaster, Ohio, took a survey in order to determine whether or not their school district should have uniforms. When the students were given the statement, “I think we should have school uniforms,” 48.74 percent of Elementary students and 61.65 percent of Junior High and High School students chose “Strongly Disagree.”  On the other hand, only 19.15 percent of parents and 9.45 percent of teachers chose “Strongly Disagree.” Why is it that approximately half of the students strongly disagreed? Students do not take into account the value of education, financial complications, and the danger of bullying, which are all reasons why HB should consider requiring uniforms for its upper school students.

A school is an institution established for the purpose of education, where students can focus on learning and being a part of a community. However, students often forget the importance and value of education, becoming more interested in the social perspective. Applying uniforms directs the focus away from the students’ clothes and towards schoolwork. According to Statistic Brain Research Institute (SBRI), eighty-one percent of teachers said that the school uniform policy minimized disruption and distractions and also improved the learning environment. Hathaway Brown is known to be one of the best schools in Ohio, a reason why students should make the most out of the opportunities presented to them. In addition to reducing distractions, school uniforms create a sense of unity throughout the school. SBRI states that ninety-five percent of teachers believe that uniforms have promoted positive student behavior. In addition, eighty percent agreed that uniforms have increased school pride and sense of community. To sum up, uniforms can help improve the learning environment by reducing disturbances and strengthening the bond within the community.

Many high school girls and boys tend to compare themselves to others. As social media use increases, sites such as Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter are beginning to negatively effect many teenagers. Social media sites allow them to compare themselves to their peers through likes, favorites, followers, and friends, focusing on who is in the picture, where they are, and what they are wearing. By enforcing uniforms, schools create an environment where none of these factors affect the student and his or her learning. It creates an environment where the students are created equal. Although students come from different communities, families, and financial situations, they should be able to come to a school like HB and be given an equal opportunity to be successful. Not only would uniforms save parents a good amount of money, but they would also prevent a family’s financial situation from restricting a student from thriving in the learning environment in which he or she is placed. Maria Morales, the mother of a student of the Lower East Side Public School 188, says “I like that there’s no competition with the kids” (The New York Times). She goes on to say, “There’s no stress over ‘What’s the latest?’ or ‘You look tacky,’ or ‘You’re not cool enough.’ We have that with the sneakers already” (The New York Times). Uniforms would take away the competition and judgment between students. My dad often tells me about his high school experience at a preparatory school in Connecticut, where he struggled to feel like he belonged. He describes the pressure he felt to wear certain brands or act a certain way. His classmates had parents who owned airlines, produced movies, or ran Fortune 500 companies. On Thanksgiving break, limousines would line up in front of the school to pick up his classmates, while he took a Greyhound bus to visit his older brother. Consequently, my dad felt as though he had to prove himself to keep up with the other students. Although HB students do not get picked up in stretch limos, there is still an undertone of materialism. At HB, there is not an instituted uniform, yet there is a common ensemble and it is not cheap. As I sit in the Learning Commons, I can look around me and find numerous Patagonia sweatshirts, Bean Boots, Hunter boots, Dr. Martens, and Lululemon leggings, all of which range between one hundred to two hundred dollars. With one hundred dollars, a student can buy a whole outfit, rather than one item. Uniforms would not only decrease the amount of spending on attire, but would also prevent HB from being an exclusive community. With uniforms, students who may not be able to afford to buy clothes that fit their own style can express themselves in a learning environment where their talent and intellect is not measured by likes, followers, or items of clothing.

Materialism and appearance are two issues that result in bullying, another valid reason why uniforms are so important. When girls say expressions such as, “I would kill for that bag” or “I would die to have that top,” they often do not think of their words literally. However, in 2012, nineteen-year-old, David Lee Robinson was shot for his two hundred dollar Nike sneakers, showing how important clothing is to some people. This example is only one of many articles I discovered of similar incidents. In 1996, Bill Clinton addressed a similar event saying, “If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms. If it means that the schoolrooms will be more orderly, more disciplined, and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms” (ProCon.org). While we all may hope that bullying and such judgment is disappearing, this is not the case. Although Hathaway Brown is a very welcoming community, which promotes sisterhood and spirit, within such a great community, bullying can and may still affect many. At an all girl school, the physical side of bullying is much less prevalent than the emotional component. The judgment between students is often not spoken, but is delivered in the tone, attitude, and body language. The judgment passed between students has the capacity to cause feelings of insignificance, isolation, and rejection. I wish that all high school students were mature enough to know the amount suffering they can cause another person, but this is not the case. To ensure equality and safety of all students, uniforms should be instituted at HB.

Many argue that uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression, and that they inhibit a student’s individuality and creativity. However students should be able to look the same aesthetically and still express themselves. A student’s character should be determined by their ideas, behavior, and knowledge, rather than how he or she appears to others. Each individual is unique in mind and talent, and school is the best possible environment to exhibit this. According to SBRI, ninety percent of teachers stated that uniforms have addressed the issues of peer pressure and zero percent of teachers agreed that uniforms hinder personal liberty. Uniforms provide safety and equal opportunity for each student.

If you ever walk through the halls of the middle school and hear a few grumbles about the uniforms, remember to take the various benefits into consideration. Despite the opposition by students, this simple arrangement improves the learning environment of a school, sets all students equal to one another, and decreases bullying. Students should be provided with a place to learn and grow without distractions and the judgment of others. Hathaway Brown and many other private and public schools should consider requiring uniforms in order to benefit the academic and personal development of their students.