Public schools urged to follow separate school lead and adopt school uniforms

The Regional Multicultural Youth Council, in a project with the Ministry of Education, has recommended that local public schools engage students and school councils in dialogue about school uniforms like these. Separate schools already have uniforms and the youth council reports they are successful for a variety of reasons.

We agree with letters by Rita Smith (Aug. 22) and Maureen Costall (Aug. 24) on the merits of school uniforms. The Regional Multicultural Youth Council’s (RMYC) surveys on creating a safer, more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students some 15 years ago produced a position paper that was used by the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board to campaign for school uniforms. Since the introduction of uniforms, we have been monitoring the situation and there have been no negative comments or arguments that wearing uniforms at school has made things worse.

Comments from Catholic high school students we have talked with confirm that school uniforms help to promote equality by eliminating status differences due to expensive designer outfits that divide the haves from the have-nots.

Uniforms also make going to school easier and more enjoyable because there is no pressure to put on new or different outfits to impress peers and feel accepted. This can be stressful for those who cannot afford brand name clothes to fit in with cliques at school.

Other advantages mentioned include promoting neatness, building team spirit, nurturing a sense of belonging and being united when everyone wears the same clothes — just as they do for sports.

In addition, mornings are easier to manage when students already know what to put on, instead of worrying about their wardrobe. They can concentrate on learning and doing well in school rather than behaving like models going to a fashion show.

For the schools, uniforms enhance safety by making it easier to identify trespassers and reducing the problems of enforcing the dress code.

They build a sense of belonging, promote collective identity, and give a polished image that fosters school pride.

For parents, they make dressing up children for school a lot cheaper, and minimize arguments about appropriate clothing to wear to school.

The RMYC’s current project with the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Lakehead District School Board, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board and Nishnawbe Aski Nation involves promoting Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, and the Accepting Schools Act. One of our recommendations is for local public schools to engage students and school councils in dialogue about school uniforms. We believe that the chances of success will be greater if both students and parents are involved.

Schools already have their colours and students can provide input on design and the quality of uniforms to make them look nice, be acceptable, and durable for re-use.

Growing economic gaps between the rich and poor, and increasing numbers of families and single parents struggling with the high costs of basic necessities make school uniforms a great equalizer. The benefits on cost-savings and convenience are guaranteed, and with no evidence of negative impacts on students, uniforms help to level the playing field for delivering education equitably. They create a welcoming atmosphere for every student to feel accepted by eliminating discrimination based on clothing, contribute towards school security, promote tidiness, and encourage students to focus on academic performance, achievement, and graduation.

Yamaan Alsumadi & Wendy Wang

Sir Winston Churchill CVI

Chance Angus

St. Ignatius High School

Thanda Lwin

St. Patrick High School

RMYC Equity and Inclusive Education Committee

Thunder Bay

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