COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – A bill prefiled in the South Carolina House would require all public school students in the state to start wearing uniforms, starting with the 2017-18 school year this August. The bill says the state Department of Education would create a statewide dress code and authorize schools to require students to wear uniforms.
The bill was prefiled by Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Lake City. The wording of the bill says uniforms prevent students’ clothing from becoming a distraction, and says, “…peer pressure causes students to ask their parents to spend large sums of money to ensure that they can wear designer clothes to school on a regular basis.”
It also states, “…students have, regrettably, used particular articles of clothing on occasion to identify themselves as members of certain gangs, to the detriment of discipline and safety at their schools.”
The Center for Knowledge, a magnet elementary school in Richland District 2 in Columbia, already requires students to wear uniforms. Principal Jessica Agee says, “We are in uniforms Monday through Thursday, and we notice that on Fridays, when we have a free-dress day, there is a change in energy level in the school and productivity. And so we hear from teachers that when kids are in uniform, and we see it across the school, they tend to be more focused.”
Fifth-grader Lauryn Campbell says, “I like using them because we can just grab it easily in the morning without having to pick out a big outfit.”
A provision of the bill says the state will provide five sets of uniforms for students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, if there’s money available.
Parent Arnold Scott of Columbia says, “The parents would love it because there’s no situation to where ‘We’ve got to wear the best pants or best clothes.’ You can just wear that uniform. But my kids would really be against that, so I can hear them complaining now.”
High school freshman Taylor Sease had to wear a uniform when she was in elementary school and didn’t like it. She wouldn’t want to have to wear one now, saying uniforms would hurt students’ ability to express their individuality. “Yeah, freedom of expression, like everyone can express their outfits and what they like to wear,” she says.
Another parent, who didn’t want his name used, said he thought the idea was stupid because of the cost, since parents would have to buy uniforms in addition to the clothes their children wear outside of school. He also said he didn’t want to turn students into “drones,” all wearing the same thing.