Schools cite benefits of student uniforms, but researchers see little evidence of effectiveness.
There’s something about a student in uniform, muses Principal Rudolph Saunders as he scans the busy lunchroom here at Stephen Decatur Middle School. Under Decatur’s policy, all students wear the standard school attire consisting of khaki pants with polo shirts in white, burgundy, or navy blue. Some of the shirts also sport an embroidered Decatur eagle, an optional embellishment.
Saunders’ instincts tell him that students behave better when they’re dressed alike, that they fight less and focus on their schoolwork more. Plus, the uniform puts all students on a more equal social footing, regardless of whether they come from comfortable middle-class households or one of the group foster-care homes that lie in Decatur’s attendance zone.
“It’s like night and day,” Saunders says. “We have ‘dress down’ days, and the kids’ behavior is just completely...
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