Refusing to Wear Uniforms: Rebellion or Need?

Uniforms have been a staple of the Preuss experience ever since the school opened in 1999. In the beginning of this school year, however, more and more students have been seen wearing everyday clothes and not adhering to the dress code. While teachers and administrators were being lenient with the dress code, many are now starting to give out dress code violations again.

It may seem like students are simply being rebellious, but in some cases, they have an actual reason for not wearing the uniform. In the beginning of the school year, the manufacturer of the uniforms ran out of them. Therefore, there was no way for students to get uniforms in the first place. And how could they be expected to wear their uniforms if they had no way of getting them?

The Preuss administration does recognize this problem. Vice Principal Ms. Nelika-Fai Watson puts herself in the shoes of Preuss parents, noting that even if uniforms are restocked later in the year, “If I have money for uniforms in August, I might not have it in October.” Furthermore, she points out that while in the past the school was able to lend out shirts to students, COVID-19 has put a strain on this.

While this is a current issue, it highlights another issue with uniforms that students have had to face in the past. Students are typically not responsible for wearing and purchasing uniforms. It’s the parents who have that responsibility. Some parents might not have time to purchase uniforms. Others may not have time to regularly do laundry.

Despite these problems, there are undoubtedly many benefits to wearing uniforms. First, uniforms can help with safety. In an emergency, if Preuss students have their polos and khakis on, they can be easily identifiable. This would also be helpful if plans are arranged for Preuss students to ride the Mid-Coast trolley later in the year.

Secondly, uniforms create a sense of community and belonging. Khakis and navy shirts can be worn in a multitude of ways and styles. Students can wear skirts, plaid skirts, skinny jeans, wide leg pants, tucked in polos, etc. Even with the uniform, there are still ways to express individuality and style, but the colors and the logo are what bring everyone together.

Ms. Watson points this out, and remarks that without her name tag, she is Nelika-Fai Watson. With the name tag, however, she is Nelika-Fai Watson, vice principal of the Preuss School UCSD.

With both the problems and the benefits in mind, Ms. Watson says, “There are a million reasons why uniforms should be worn and a million reasons why some people can’t wear them.” A lot of the time, there is no way for the staff to know why exactly a student does not have the uniform on.

This prompts the long debated questions: do the benefits of uniforms outweigh the cons? At the end of the day, what is best for the students?