Do Public School Uniforms Prevent Bullying?

In the debate over whether public schools should have uniforms, those in favor often claim that uniforms prevent bullying in school. After all, if everyone is wearing the same thing, no one can make fun of another child’s fashion choices, right? Let’s discuss how true that really is.

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Let me be honest up front, I am very much against uniforms in public school. I’m extremely protective of my son’s individuality and freedom to express himself. I feel that uniforms tell children that they should all strive to be the same, which goes against every belief in my odd, self-constructed belief system. I’ll always be a punk-rock-girl at heart!

I went to public school for the first 8 years, then finished out high school in a private school, so I wore uniforms for the last four years of my school career. Back then, no public schools were wearing uniforms. I’ve been on both sides of the debate.

Do public school uniforms prevent bullying?

To me, the answer is a resounding no. When I was in private school, we were allowed to wear green tights under our skirts in the winter. K-Mart was the only place I could find them. When I came to school with my tights on, another girl asked where I got them. When I told her, she laughed at me and said she would wait until a more upscale store started selling them. I laughed and said “have fun freezing!” By that point, I was so used to people looking at me funny because of my hair style and taste in music that it didn’t really phase me anymore.

We all wore different shoe brands. We all carried different backpacks. We all had different binders, pencils, pens, notebooks, etc. When kids can’t pick on another student’s choice of shirt style, they’ll look for something else. A bully who wants to poke fun will find a way to do it. Unless every child is exactly the same right down to hair and eye color, there will be something to single out.

If you really think about it, fashion choices are just one of many causes of bullying. From what I remember and what I’ve seen in my son’s school now (they are the last school in the area without uniforms), fashion comes in far behind other risk factors for bullying.

Pushing school uniforms to prevent bullying sends a poor message to kids

One thing that really bothers me about the idea that school uniforms prevent bullying is that it sends a message to kids that being different is a bad thing. It tells them that rather than fight bullying on a deeper level, we’ll just throw a Band-Aid on it by making every child look similar. School uniforms do not prevent bullying. Parents, teachers and kids working together through bullying prevention programs and ongoing dialogue are the only ways to really put a stop to it.

Since this was about whether school uniforms prevent bullying, I didn’t really get into the other pros and cons of having uniforms in public school. I’ve heard it said that they save money on clothes, although I managed to buy my son’s entire wardrobe for the last year for under $100 through clearance sales. My mom used to pay about $200 a year for my uniforms. In our area, I rarely see uniform-style clothing on sale.

I’m sure there are other potential pros to public school uniforms. I know many people who absolutely love them. I’m obviously not one of those people, so if you want to weigh in on the pros, I’d love to hear your side! Perhaps in your area, school uniforms really do help prevent bullying. If so, tell me about it! I always read comments with an open mind.

30 thoughts on “Do Public School Uniforms Prevent Bullying?”

  1. I agree that uniforms do nothing about the issue of bullying. I was a long haired, earring wearing guy that walked funny and listened to heavy metal in my small town high school, so I caught a fair amount of heat.

    As an adult, I loathe the zero tolerance policies that are now in place everywhere, not because I thin bullying should be tolerated, but because I think they create a safe haven for bullies because they make kids less likely to fight back because they will get in the same trouble as the bully. I teach my kids to respect others, but once someone is physically or verbally abusive, all bets are off.

  2. I am going to say that I have mixed feelings on the school uniform idea. My daughter had them and although it did not stop bulling, it made things easier when everyone wasn’t competing with their clothes and accessories.

  3. I have heard about this being a suggestion to stop bullying before. This way, no one can compete when it comes to name brands or clothes being worn repetitively.

  4. I think that if we all taught our kids to be kind and think of others there would be no worry. The change starts with the kids, not the clothes.

  5. I have never heard of a school instituting school uniforms as a way of dealing with bullying. I completely agree that just because they all wear the same clothing doesn’t mean that the bullying will stop. Kids can come up all different reasons to bully. When I went to private school, the reason our school changed to uniforms was a safety issue. The school said that with a public school next door, they wanted to be able to differentiate which student belonged to our school.

  6. I think if a kid is going to be a bully they will find something to bully you about. Uniforms can not stop that. I did go to a school where we had to wear uniforms. I liked that i did not have to worry about what i was going to wear to school.

  7. It probably stops teasing about certain things like economic class etc. Bullying still existed in private schools with uniform requirements some of my family members went to though.

  8. I didn’t even know that some public schools require uniforms until a friend of mine mentioned buying them for her son and step-daughter. I don’t really have a preference either way. I attended public schools, and we always wore what we want (within limits). I think uniforms look nicer than some of the fashion choices today, but that’s probably a sign of aging. LOL

  9. I worked in Japan for 3 years, though I like the idea of a uniform so kids can concentrate on school… not clothing choices. I promise it did not prevent bullying in those schools. If not clothing… then it is hair, a nose, how someone walks, etc.

  10. My nephew was being bullied at public school, and the principal would not do anything about it. So, they put him in private school and he has blossomed and never been better. I’m not sure if it had to do with uniforms, but he’s not bullied anymore at least.

  11. My son is in preschool and they wear whatever they want. I’m not sure yet if he will attend a school that requires uniforms. I think that uniforms are great if they help prevent some bullying.

  12. I think school uniforms would serve to prevent this particular avenue of bullying, but I don’t think it will prevent all bullying. Kids are mean. There’s no getting around that.

  13. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    I think it makes total sense that uniforms promote less bullying. My kids don’t go to a school where they have uniforms, but then again, bullying is not tolerated.

  14. I DO NOT agree with uniforms. Kids will ALWAYS find a reason to “bully” another. I do agree that uniform stifles a child’s intelligence, creativity and freedom of expression. The fact of the matter, we are ALL unique and very different individuals.

    As a parent of three soon-to-be four school age children, uniforms are very expensive. The cost keeps going up. I now have to purchase uniforms and outside of school clothing. That’s not helping me financially.

    In my experience when inquiring about schools the first thing that’s stressed is uniforms. Not curriculum or anything of importance but uniforms. I don’t understand how our when uniforms became more important than education. Kid’s education have been disrupted because their clothing didn’t exactly “fit” the criteria. Meaning a child can have on dark bottoms like sweats, but because it isn’t “uniform pants” he doesn’t meet the code. Its ridiculous.

    My kids have attended an excellent school where uniform was NOT enforced. The bullying rate was low and the academic achievement was high. They also attended schools where uniform was enforced, the bullying at a high rate and academics low. Go figure!

  15. I agree kids will find something to make fun of if they’re going to. When I was a kid, I had a boy at school who always made fun of my last name. What was I supposed to do about that? We are strongly leaning toward homeschooling though, so we won’t be worrying about uniforms.

  16. That is so sad to hear that bullying is very rampant to schools anywhere. I grew up going to school with a uniform and there’s no problem with it. I don’t know in today’s generation though.

  17. There is NO WAY to prevent bullying…it’s as old as Cain and Abel! My personal opinion is that we need to teach our children:

    1. respect and treat others like they want to be treated
    2. love themselves enough to stand up for themselves
    3. know how to choose the right friends and do what is RIGHT not just what’s popular

    of course, easier said than done, but those are my goals for my kids 😉

  18. I agree. It does not stop bullying exclusive, but may lesser the chance. Some parents also do not have to worry financial of buying the school clothing every year of many outfits and makes it easier to pick out clothes in the morning.

  19. Sure there are pros and cons-but I think that it does even the playing field plus it makes it easier to focus on other things regardless of what you are wearing. Less to argue about too when it comes to picking out clothing-I’m all for them

  20. No matter what schools try to do to curb bullying, kids are still going to be kids. They will find a way to make fun of you and your uniform clothes (just like you stated above). Until parents and educators get on the same page and come up with strict consequences for bullying it is going to continue to thrive. Education is very important but it is ultimately up to the kids parents to enforce the issues.

    1. I agree with most of that. However, I disagree on your point of strict punishment being a solution. Psychologically, punishments are the least effective way to change behavior. The best way is to get to the bully and communicatell to him so that he understands why to not do what he’s been doing. And introduce him/her to a setting with more positive influences than they likely are surrounded with in their often brutal households. if you get to the bully is saves not only the pain of some but of all who he would eventually come to effect. Additionally, punishment someone that has a hard life only enforces to them how hard and life is and why they should continue that bad behavior because they do not care about the world because of their experiences. Forgiveness and positive influence can drastically change the actual root of the situatio.

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