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Experts disagree on uniforms

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Requiring students to wear uniforms does not prevent school violence, according to a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who said they are as futile as trying to paint a crumbling building.
"Requiring students to wear mandatory school uniforms is like cleaning and brightly painting a deteriorating building," Dr. David Brunsma said. "On one hand, it grabs our immediate attention and on the other hand, it is only a coat of paint."
Brunsma, a sociology professor at UAH, said implementing a uniform policy has not significant impact on scholastic achievement or solving behavioral problems.
"Despite what many people think, behavior problems do not go away with the implementation of a mandatory school uniform policy," he said.
Hartselle's School Board is currently debating the merits of switching to school uniforms. Parents and teachers are being surveyed at each Hartselle City school. The board will consider the results of that survey when making its decision.
Brunsma said some systems find the implementation and maintenance of the uniform policy to be more burdensome than beneficial.
"Since uniform policies do not overcome these basic variations in schooling at all levels, educators should focus on processes that are alterable," he said.
Other factors are more important in determining school success, Brunsma said. He includes parental involvement; communication between students and parents; positive approaches to learning; student preparedness for academic work; pro-school attitudes from peer groups; positive educational climates; and safe schools.
The U.S. Department of Education disagrees with Brunsma.
On its web site, the department said, "In response to growing levels of violence in our schools, many parents, teachers, and school officials have come to see school uniforms as one positive and creative way to reduce discipline problems and increase school safety."
The department said its studies have shown school uniforms lead to a decrease in school violence and theft; instilling students with discipline; helping students resist peer pressure; and helping students concentrate on their work.
The site contains numerous examples from schools throughout the United States. Officials from the schools said uniforms were a success for them.
"This year, the demeanor in the school has improved 98 percent, truancy and tardies are down and we have not had one reported incident of theft," said Dr. John German, principal of South Shore Middle School in Seattle, Wash.
Before uniforms, German said, students were "draggin', saggin', and laggin'.
"I needed to keep them on academic focus," German said. "My kids were really into what others were wearing."