Some adamant Scottsdale parents are close to having mandatory uniforms at their school, but the benefits remain inconclusive in research, rooted mostly in anecdotes and the perceptions of supporters.

While some swear that uniforms in public schools instill order, academic focus and pride, others say they rob students of personal choice. Some wonder why a school board would dress students the same given the results are so questionable.

The Scottsdale Unified School District's governing board will vote Tuesday to decide if Cheyenne Traditional School will become the first in the district to require uniforms. Board members were largely supportive at a previous meeting, and are mainly awaiting legal review of the policy.

"There's research that says that it has no effect on academic performance, and there's research that says it does, but at the end of the day, I think it's what the majority of parents at Cheyenne feel is right for their school," said Lisa Croft, a parent on the site council that has spearheaded the effort.

Cheyenne is a "back-to-basics" school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Since its inception in 1997, parents have been trying

to make its voluntary uniform policy mandatory. They cite 81 percent approval from 61 percent of parents polled.

Proponents for uniforms in public schools list a variety of reasons, such as improving grades and reducing gang activity or violence over expensive clothes.

"There actually haven't been any studies that I'm aware of to date that show any effectiveness of uniform policies," said sociologist David Brunsma. "There also haven't been any studies that have shown empirically any detrimental effects of uniform policies, either."

Brunsma, at University of Alabama in Huntsville, co-wrote a research article, wrote a review of the literature and is compiling a book on the subject. He's undecided, but finds the reasons behind uniforms often puzzling and devoid of factual basis.

"It is kind of a simplistic thought that you could create some kind of conformity and everybody would adopt the institutional values of the school," Brunsma said. "That kind of makes sense on the surface, but we were a little surprised that we didn't find anything."

Thomas Smith, principal of Longfellow Elementary School in Mesa, is enthusiastic about his school's uniform policy. He maintains uniforms have leveled the playing field for the school's poorest students and reduced social barriers.

"Uniforms provide structure, and the big thing, of course, is that it makes all the kids the same," Smith said.

Opponents say that isn't necessarily a good thing.

"The current dress code at Cheyenne gives students the daily opportunity to make appropriate choice of school clothing," parent Lisa Cvach said in an e-mail. "If the daily clothing decision is already made for them, they will be denied the opportunity to make good choices."

Court cases have upheld, though, that denying such choices does not violate the rights of students, said Tom Pickrell, legal counsel for the Mesa Unified School District, which has three schools with uniforms.

Bethany Konchan, a 14-year-old Scottsdale student who has attended Cheyenne and Mountainside Middle School, said she understands both sides. "Everyone would be the same then, and in a way, it does kind of not give you the individual personality through their clothes," she said, but added that "if you meet a person, you get their type of personality without looking at their clothes."

While Bethany said uniforms at a school such as Cheyenne would probably work, it wouldn't be accepted at Mountainside, where fashion is big with some students.

"They don't want to look a certain way, I think," she said. "A majority of the kids wouldn't like it at all."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.