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Letter: A uniform solution to a dress code policy

'Uniforms enhance school pride and unity, and may also improve discipline and attendance'
School uniforms can help students focus on schoolwork, not the clothes of their peers says reader

Editor's note: Mr. Saunders writes in response to the BayToday article School board updates dress guideline to enhance inclusivity and equity.

To the Editor:

Once again I have felt compelled to hammer out and electronically mail an opinion letter, and once again the target of my words is the Near North District School Board.

This time, however, the subject at hand has nothing to do with the board's ill-advised attempt to rename Chippewa Secondary School. No, this latest way the board has found to waste their time and the public's money was announced in a BayToday article entitled "School Board Updates Dress Guideline to Enhance Inclusivity and Equity."

It really does seem that the board feels duty-bound to involve itself in any issue that doesn't address what should be its primary focus- enhancing student achievement in the schools which it administers. Worse, it seems as if they compound their folly, in that every time the board comes to a fork in the road, it turns in the wrong direction.

In the article, the board says the changes reflect its commitment to “creating inclusive environments that are safe and equitable.” Fine sounding words, but what does it mean? Clearly, public policy should not tolerate discrimination against any individual or group. But really, is amending a dress code going to make the slightest bit of difference other than to make school board members feel pleased with themselves?

One of the school board members is quoted in the article as saying that the existing dress code is "rigid and doesn’t allow for students to have any sort of self-expression.” Really? Do we really want kids to define themselves by the clothes they wear? And self-expression in choosing the clothes they want to wear. I'm sure that'll work out well! Why not just give them the right to vote at the same time?

What's the solution? Well, in my opinion, I think that it would make sense to consider mandating school uniforms. Studies have shown that school uniforms help to keep students focused on their schoolwork, not their clothes.

My reading on the subject indicates that students are frequently left out or teased if they don't dress the same way as the most popular students do. Requiring school uniforms levels the playing field by eliminating the status that comes with buying more costly clothes. They also create a level playing field among students by reducing peer pressure.

Uniforms enhance school pride and unity, and may also improve discipline and attendance. Additionally, uniforms save class time because they're easier to enforce than a standard dress code. Students dressed in uniform are also better perceived by teachers and peers.

Uniforms are also being adopted by public schools in increasing numbers.

According to a recent report, the percentage of public schools requiring school uniforms rose from 12% in the 2000 school year to 20% in the 2018 school year.

Finally, a compelling pro-uniform argument comes from my granddaughter, who will graduate at the end of this month from the sixth grade. She spent her first four grades in a school that required uniforms, and while she loves her new school, she would rather go back to wearing a uniform: "It used to be so easy to get ready in the morning! Now I'm always running late figuring out what I'm going to wear!"

Ian Saunders
North Bay