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Public School Uniform Statistics

Private schools often require students to wear school uniforms. Some public schools are now adopting uniform policies. Keep reading for information on public school uniform statistics and the ongoing school uniform debate.

While school uniforms are typically found in private schools, it may have only been in 1987 that the first public school--Cherry Hill Elementary in Baltimore, MD--instituted a school uniform policy. Then, in 1994, the Long Beach Unified School District in California adopted a mandatory uniform policy in some of its schools, making it the first urban district to do so. The adoption of school uniforms for all 200,000 students by the Philadelphia Board of Education in May, 2000 was another landmark. Though public school uniform use is not widespread, it is growing. 

  • Although the states with the most students who wear school uniforms are the five big population states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas, the ten cities with the most students in uniform are actually in eight different states and the District of Columbia: 

    • Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA 
    • New York City, NY 
    • Houston, TX 
    • Philadelphia, PA 
    • Dallas/Fort Worth, TX 
    • Washington, DC 
    • New Orleans, LA 
    • Detroit, MI 
    • Jacksonville, FL 
    • Atlanta, GA 

  • Schools in 21 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of uniform requirements. 
  • Some cities have widespread uniform use in their public schools: 

    • 95% of New Orleans’ public schools require uniforms 
    • 85% of Cleveland’s public schools require uniforms 
    • 80% of Chicago’s public schools require uniforms 
    • 65% of Boston’s public schools require uniforms 
    • 60% of Miami’s public schools require uniforms 
    • 50% of Cincinnati’s public schools require uniforms 

  • After the first public school began using uniforms, there was a considerable increase in the use of uniforms, partly fueled by President Bill Clinton mentioning the benefits of school uniforms in his inaugural address in 1996, as indicated in a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): 

    • Prior to the 1994-1995 school year only about three-quarters of one percent of students in the US were required to wear uniforms. 
    • By the 1996-1997 school year, that number had increased about four-fold to 3 percent. • A marketing research group, NDP Group, Inc., reported that school-uniform sales were valued at $900 million in 1999 and rose 22% to $1.1 billion in 2000. 

  • The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) conducted a phone survey of 755 principals in 2000, which revealed that: 

    • 21% of all public schools had a uniform policy 
    • 23% of all public, private, and sectarian schools either had a uniform policy, were in the process of creating one, or had firm plans in place to create one. 
    • 71% of the 755 schools represented did not require uniforms and were not considering requiring them. 

  • A case study of the effects of adopting school uniforms in Long Beach, CA which appeared in Psychology Today in September, 1999, reported the following effects from the switch to uniforms in 1995: 

    • Overall, the crime rate dropped by 91% 
    • School suspensions dropped by 90% 
    • Sex offenses were reduced by 96% 
    • Incidents of vandalism went down 69% 

  • Also reporting on the Long Beach Unified School District, an Education Week article in 1998 reported that since 1994, assaults in grades Kindergarten through 8 had decreased by 85%.

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