Uniforms in Schools Increase

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This is the week when Vickey Wegener's store is bursting at the seams.

Above the hum of six sewing machines, Wegener says the number of uniforms sold at Educational Outfitters has increased in each of the nine years she's been open.

"Schools are getting stricter with their uniform policies and they're trying to eliminate the peer pressure," she said.

According to the National Center for Education, 19 percent of public schools require a uniform, compared to 12 percent ten years prior. Fifty-seven percent of schools have a "strict" dress code.

Those dress codes often prohibit halter tops, spaghetti straps and sagging pants. Wegener says that today's fashion landscape makes it harder to shop for school.

"There's a lot of things you buy at the department stores now, that are low-ride; they're tight and skinny; they're too short; they're too low cut," she said. "And that's why a lot of people are going to uniforms."

Kids say it takes some of the guesswork out of the mornings. Parents say it helps their budget.

"People look at school uniforms and think they're expensive but when you take a look at the stores and everybody having to have name brand clothing, it's just as expensive," said Patti Nowak, a parent. "The nice thing too is we can recycle clothes. There's lots of schools that have programs set up that if the kids grow out of the item, there's a program usually in the school where if it's in great shape you can put it right back in there."

Wegener says a $150 outfit can last an entire year.

"You don't have to have a spring wardrobe, a winter wardrobe, a fall wardrobe," she said. "It's all the same."

Schools like St. Thomas Aquinas in Okemos say uniforms can instill school loyalty and promote modesty too.

But other educators say there isn't any clear data that correlates uniforms and stronger academic performance. They say clothing is one way kids can express their individuality.

"We really try to create an environment where we're helping kids to be successful even beyond Dansville," said Dansville Superintendent Amy Hodgson. "And eventually they're going to run into a place that doesn't have uniforms. So I guess our focus would be how do you treat people and how do you as administrators address those kind of disrespect issues so that when they leave here, they do know how to handle those situations."

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