To wear or not to wear

Michael Mankee and his mom, Claudia, are pictured. (Photo by 8-18 Media)

Michael Mankee and his mom, Claudia, are pictured. (Photo by 8-18 Media)

Written by:  Liam Ulland-Joy, with contributions from Elise Heide, Annabella Martinson, and Anja McBride. 

The rundown on school uniforms

According to the website, the percentage of public schools requiring that students wear uniforms in the United States increased from 12 percent to 20 percent from 1999 to 2014.  The website states that in 2015, 23 percent of both private and public schools nationwide have a uniform policy. Those statistics mean a lot of kids can’t elect to wear their fuzzy pajama pants to school or their favorite sports team jersey or even their favorite T-shirt featuring an alternative rock band. The increase in school uniforms trend hits close to home now too.  Locally, Father Marquette Schools implemented a uniform policy with the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Claudia Mankee’s son, 11-year-old Michael Mankee, attends sixth grade at Father Marquette Middle School. Mankee explained that Michael has been a student at Father Marquette since pre-k, and that the school welcomed the parents’ input on a possible uniform policy.

“They did a survey school wide, asking if there was interest in having a uniform policy. I think based on those results the diocese decided to establish a uniform policy,” Mankee said.

As a parent, Mankee’s initial reaction to the uniform policy was quite positive.

Rebecca Portale (Photo by 8-18 Media)

“I was excited about a uniform because I think it’s a lot easier every morning to decide what you have to wear for school and I think it’s also economical because you don’t have to buy a big wardrobe, so I like the idea,” she said.

Rebecca Portale, mother of sixth grade Father Marquette Middle School student Sophia Portale, also had a positive reaction to the uniform policy.

“I was okay with it.  It saves time, money and stress,” Portale said.

So what do these parents have to say about the advantages of the new uniform policy?

“Advantages would be that they are all very similar, that you don’t have to worry about one person’s clothes being … more (expensive) or being fashionable when somebody else’s isn’t. As well as it takes a whole lot less time picking out clothes in the morning and a lot less stress,” Portale explained.

School has been in session for a few months now and after living with the uniform policy for a bit of time, Mankee remains happy with the new dress code.

“I am very pleased.  I think the students look very nice all wearing the same clothes and, as a parent, I also think that we don’t have to worry about whether the clothes that our child is going to wear to school are appropriate or not and in our case that hasn’t been a problem, but I know sometimes teenagers want to choose clothing that is not very appropriate for school so I think the uniform policy is very good for that reason also,” Mankee said.

Michael Mankee explained that the students have a few options when choosing what they get to wear to school on a daily basis (we know fuzzy pajama pants are out).

“We can wear khaki colored shorts or pants and dark blue or light blue polo shirts,” Michael said.

Sophia Portale chimed in that the girls are also able to wear khaki colored skirts.

Sophia Portale (Photo by 8-18 Media)

Some people argue that fashion is a distraction to students and that uniforms can prevent that distraction and help kids concentrate more on their studies. Claudia Mankee said that she agrees with this argument for uniforms.

“Uniforms help students concentrate because I think students are not worried about who wears the coolest clothes or who has something better looking or the latest fashion, so I think it is less of a distraction.  Everybody looks the same and for the most part everybody looks alike,” Mankee said.

It seems to be a common theme with these parents that uniforms keep kids focused on school.

“I guess in a way I agree because you are not looking at other people’s clothing and thinking their’s cost more so they must have more money. ‘Look at the logo on that shirt.  I need a shirt like that.’  So yeah, I think they do have more time to worry about what is going on in front of them and not what all their friends look like or this person didn’t follow the policy,” Mankee said. “I think leggings and skinny jeans have become an issue and it is a policy not to wear them, but a lot of them get away with it and if you don’t let your child, but another child does … that’s a distraction too.”

The parents are on the same page that uniforms help kids focus on schoolwork, but Sophia Portale disagrees with her mom, stating simply, “I never got distracted by other clothes.”

We wondered what happens if a student forgets part of their uniform? Michael Mankee said that the school thought about that too.

“They keep ties, socks, shirts, pants in the office. You would be surprised how many kids last year got jelly on their pants,” he said.

The kids are not required to wear uniforms every day. The school allows them to wear something other than uniforms to school every second Monday of the month. These are called “theme days.” Michael Mankee said for the first theme day of the year, “sports day,” he wore a Tigers baseball jersey and sweatpants. For November’s theme, the students got to wear something red, white and blue because of the presidential election, and in December the kids get to wear something Christmas related.

It seems the parents support the uniforms and love that it streamlines their mornings and they hope that the uniform policy helps their kids stay focused during the school day.  The students get a chance to dress creatively and show some of their personal style on theme days.  May we suggest a pajama themed day?  Fuzzy pajama pants are really comfortable.

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