School Uniforms: Do They Improve


Student Behavior?


Stacey Hoover


Southeastern Louisiana University


























This study will try to determine if school uniforms have an effect on student behavior. Students attending Sixth Ward Junior High School during the 1999-2000 and the 2000-2001 school years will be studied. Student files will be opened, and the number of discipline referrals from one year to the next will be compared. These findings will be compared to see if there was any improvement in the student behavior from the 1999-2000 school year when uniforms were not worn and the 2000-2001 school year when school uniforms were mandated.

















School Uniforms: Do They Improve Student Behavior?


            The purpose to this study is to determine if wearing school uniforms has an effect on student behavior and or school violence in elementary and junior high school students.

Review of Related Literature

            School uniforms in the public school sector is one of our nation’s growing trends. As with any new trend, school uniforms have a host of supporters and non-supporters. Holloman (1995) stated that schools are looking for a solution to student socialization problems as well as a solution to the problem of the health and safety of youth in schools today. They are doing so by vigorously seeking strategies to address the problem of student clothing and appearance related issues. Their solution is a mandatory school uniform.

            Stanley (1996) found that school uniforms in the public school setting will help restore order in the classroom and safety in schools. When determining why, she found those in favor of uniforms felt they provided a ready solution to gang violence, weapons in schools, and assaults associated with the theft of expensive clothing.

            The Malcolm X school is a prime example of uniforms providing control in the school. While the exterior of the school building shows the effects of the inner city in which the school is located, the interior looks like a well-oiled machine. Principal John Parrnell says the interior of Malcolm X compensates for disorder outside by making clear what the rules are here, within the school’s domain. Part of this control has been brought about by the use of uniforms (Natale, 1993).

            The next thought that accompanies school uniforms is at what level should uniforms be required. Most studies concur that school uniforms are mostly worn in elementary and junior high school settings, but the greatest incidence of school violence is in the high school setting (Holloman, LaPoint, Alleyne, Palmer, & Sanders-Phillips, 1996). In order to truly determine if the incidence of school violence will decrease due to school uniforms, a study needs to be done where the violence actually occurs. The biggest problem with that is there are not many high schools that participate in the wearing of school uniforms. High schools generally waived the idea of school uniforms due to the fact that most cases were not supported due to the Tinker vs. Des Moines ruling. This ruling allowed for students to have freedom in what they chose to wear. Most high school students would “opt out” of wearing the uniform. However, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Tinker ruling did not have an effect of school uniforms; therefore, a student may not choose to “opt out”. This opens the door for studies to be done on the high school level (Starr, 2000). Starr did find that elementary and middle school students show a decrease in the number of discipline problems over a period of time after school uniforms are implemented. Hoffler-Riddick and Lassiter (1996) reported a 30% reduction in the number of students missing school due to suspensions for disruption, insubordination, disrespect, and fighting after the implementation of school uniforms in one of the poorest sections of Norfolk, VA.

            The preliminary findings of a study done in Long Beach Unified School District, while not conclusive, is encouraging to the education community. The study suggests that uniforms potentially offer an easy, low-cost alternative to deterrence of school violence (Wilson, 1999).

            Tanioka and Glaser (1991) studied students in Japan. The students were separated into several groups, one of which wore school uniforms. There are not any significant difference across the board for the Japanese students; however, they find self reported delinquency rates in Japan much lower than the results yielded in similar studies in the U.S.

            Those that do not support mandatory school uniforms still do believe there should be a dress code that is followed. These findings were based on three levels of school, size of school, and the location of the school. Sixty-eight percent of elementary school principals, 99% of middle/junior high principals, and 85% of high school principals feel that dress codes were needed in their schools (DeMitchell, Fossey, & Cobb, 2000).

            There is still yet a multitude of information to be found on this subject. However, Bunsma and Rockquemore (1998) found that school uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems, or attendance.


            It is hypothesized that elementary and junior high school students who wear school uniforms will have statistically significantly fewer discipline referrals than students who do not wear school uniforms.

Operational Definitions

            Elementary and Junior Highs School students are children in the third through eighth grade. Discipline referrals are the disciplinary form used by the school board. School uniforms are the clothes selected by the school as appropriate attire.


Research Design

            This study will use ex post facto research. The independent variable is wearing school uniforms. There are two levels of independent variables, with school uniforms and without school uniforms. The dependent variable is student behavior. Ex post facto research will only allow for possible cause and effect.


            This study will use convenience sample. There will be approximately 200 students from grades 3-8. Approximately 33 students from each grade level will be selected. These students will have attended Sixth Ward Junior High School during the 1999-2000 school year when school uniforms were not mandatory. The subjects will have attended Sixth Ward Junior High School during the 2000-2001 school year when school uniforms were mandated. The subjects will be mostly Caucasian. Approximately 65% of the student body receives free or reduced lunch as set forth by the State of Louisiana guidelines.


            The instrument used for evaluation will be the Louisiana Department of Education School Behavior Report. The first section of this form includes student information. The necessary information needed is the student’s name, id number, phone number, grade level, school attending, regular or special education status, and location of the incident. There is also a space in this section for some information on the reporting teacher which includes, teacher’s name and room number. The date and time are also included in this section. The final part of section one includes the nature of the incident. There are 21 inappropriate behaviors listed and then an area for remarks or comments.

            The remainder of the form is broken down into two more sections, the action taken by the teacher or school employee and the action taken by the school administrator. This section of the form is where the teacher and administrator sign the document.


            This study will be conducted after the completion of the 2000-2001 school year. It can also be repeated after the 2001-2002 school year. There will be approximately 33 students selected from each grade level that meet the criteria necessary to be chosen. The student’s records will be analyzed. The number of discipline referrals the students received in the 2000-2001 school year will be compared to the results from the 1999-2000 school year. The differences will then determine if the uniforms had a positive, negative, or no effect on the students. The results will be retained and then compared to the number of discipline referrals the students received in the 2001-2002 school year. This will help determine if improvements will come over time.

Data Analysis

            The Related Sample T test will be used to prove if there is any statistical significance in this study.









Brunsma, D. L., & Rockquemore, K. A. (1998). Effects of student uniforms on 

            attendance, behavior problems, substance abuse, and academic achievement.

            Journal of Educational Research, 92, 53-62.       

DeMitchell, T. A., Fossey, T. & Cobb, C. (2000). Dress codes in the public schools:

            Principals, policies, and precepts. Journal of Law and Education. 29, 31-49.

Hoffler-Riddick, P. Y., & Lassiter, K. J. (1996). No more “sag baggin”: School uniforms

            bring the focus back to instruction. Schools in the Middle, 5, 27-28.

Holloman, L. O. (1995). Violence and other antisocial behaviors in public schools: Can

            dress codes help solve the problems? Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences,

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Holloman, L., LaPoint, V., Alleyne, S.I., Palmer, R.J., & Sanders-Phillips, K. (1996).

            Dress-related behavioral problems and violence in the public school setting:

            Prevention, intervention, and policy—A holistic approach. Journal of Negro

            Education. 65, 267-281.

Natale, J. (1993). Great expectations. Executive Educator, 15, 28-30.

Stanley, M. S. (1996). School uniforms and safety. Education and Urban Society, 28,


Starr, J. (2000) . School violence and its effect on the constitutionality of public school

            uniform policies. Journal of Law and Education, 29, 113-118.

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            control of delinquency in Japan. Youth in Society, 23, 50-75.

Wilson, R.E. II. (1999). Impact of school uniform dress code on principal of school

            violence (Research Report 143) Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Unified School

            District. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 449 546)