Forget squelching personal choice and freedom of expression. When kids see a polyester plaid school uniform, their first thought is: "Yuck." But statistics now show that making students don the traditional kilts and blazers actually reduces school crime.
In 1995, parents in Long Beach, Calif., decided that putting schoolkids in matching clothes would steer the classroom focus away from sporting the right shoes and hack to learning. The numbers agreed: Since they mandated uniforms five years ago, overall crime in the school district has dropped by a startling 91%. Suspensions are down 90%, sex offenses have been reduced by 96% and vandalism has gone down 69%. Arnold Goldstein, Ph.D., head of the Center for Research on Aggression at Syracuse University, believes uniforms work by promoting a sense of community,, allowing troubled students to feel part of a supportive whole. Says Goldstein: "There is a sense of belonging."
As violence in schools becomes more and more of a concern across the country, educators and parents alike are examining every means possible, including school uniforms, to reduce classroom tensions. While some people claim uniform clothing won't alleviate the anger or instability lurking within potentially dangerous students, the Long Beach experiment proves the system may be worth a shot.