School Uniforms and Violence

Some schools promote school uniforms as a way of reducing school violence. This article addresses the correlation between school uniforms and violence. Keep reading for tips on stopping violence at school and the benefits of school uniforms as part of the dress code.

School uniforms are one option that administrators, teachers, and parents may consider when thinking about solutions to teen violence. School uniforms can play a role in reducing some types of school violence, but they are more effective when used along with other methods for reducing violence. School uniforms and violence may have some correlation but they are not a sure solution.

While many schools have some type of dress code to avoid disruptive or gang-related clothing, some schools are also using or considering school uniforms as a way of reducing school violence. School uniforms have several advantages in combating school violence:

  • They make it more difficult for students to show gang affiliation, which may reduce gang violence and gang activity at school.
  • If properly designed, they make it more difficult for students to hide weapons on their bodies when entering the school.
  • They create a more level playing field for students of different social or economic classes, which may help reduce bullying.
  • School uniforms make it easier to spot an intruder who should not be on campus and may be there to harm students, sell drugs, or engage in other disruptive or dangerous activities.
  • In some cases school uniforms seem to help create a sense of belonging and school spirit for students, increase students' self-esteem, and decrease discipline problems.

It is difficult to know how much correlation school uniforms and violence really have because many schools that have switched to school uniforms to reduce school violence use them along with other violence reduction strategies. Still, some teachers and students feel that schools seem safer when school uniforms are required. The effectiveness of school uniforms may depend on the factors influencing school violence in a community and the other methods the school uses to reduce teen violence.

Some points to consider when looking at a school that already has school uniforms, or when thinking about using them at a school, include:

  • Some students and parents object to school uniforms because they limit students' ability to express themselves through clothing.
  • School uniform policies are sometimes challenged in court. School uniforms have generally stood up to legal challenges in the past when the administrators showed a clear intention to use the school uniforms to reduce violence and improve the learning environment, and not simply to regulate fashion trends. Schools should get legal advice on state court rulings about school uniforms in public schools in their state.
  • School uniform policies in public schools must allow exceptions for religious expression, such as certain articles of clothing that must be worn by some religious groups, including head coverings.
  • It is best not to have the school uniforms carry any type of written message, such as the name of a school sponsor.
  • Some families may need financial help obtaining required uniforms for their students, but in some cases school uniforms save families money on clothing. The financial impact of school uniforms on a family will depend on how much they already spend on clothing.

School uniforms are likely to be most effective when used as part of a larger program of education and support for students to reduce school violence. Some of the other methods used along with school uniforms to combat teen violence include:

  • Teaching non-violent conflict resolution
  • A zero tolerance policy for bullying, fighting, and carrying weapons
  • Making certain that struggling students get extra help
  • Instituting after school programs to give teens positive activities and options
  • Extra monitoring of school entrances and hallways

Though school uniforms alone will probably not be enough to stop teen violence, they can be part of a school atmosphere or strategy that helps reduce violence at school.


University of Oregon College of Education, Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, "Uniforms and Dress-code Policies" [online]

Security Research Center and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, "Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence" [online]

Related Article: School Violence Statistics >>