School uniforms in Alcenia
Most public schools in Alcenia require a uniform. They were first introduced in 1957 in Keiwasta when the Pleasant Heights School District instituted them as part of an effort to increase local pride and identity. Since then, they have spread to every state in Alcenia. In 1977, twenty years after their initial introduction, Keiwasta made school uniforms mandatory for all public schools, the first and currently only state to do so. Several public universities have also adopted uniforms. Requirements for uniforms are usually imposed by local school districts but there are some individual schools that have adopted uniforms independently.
While there was little discussion when they were first introduced, the issue of uniforms in public schools and universities has become increasingly controversial and often relates to issues such as gender, sex, class, equality, and other factors. The Department of Education estimated in 2016 that 64.3% of schools require uniforms, an increase from 47.4% in 2004.
Before 1957, uniforms were only a staple in private or specialized schools. Herman Vale, the Chairman of the Pleasant Heights School District in Keiwasta, visited England in 1957 and was fascinated by uniform requirements there. When he returned home, he was inspired to experiment with uniforms in his district and contacted several fashion designers to make prototype uniforms. This was around the same time the city of Pleasant Heights was looking for ways to create a unique identity for the local community and inspire a sense of civic pride within residents. Vale proposed his idea to the city council with a request for appropriations to pay for the program. His proposal was well-received and the city council voted unanimously to grant funding for the program. The finalized design for the uniforms was unveiled in May 1957 at the end of the school year and were officially adopted that September, the start of the next school year. Initially, parents of students were required to pay for the uniforms (with exceptions granted to low-income families), but since 1965 they have been provided free of charge.
Twenty years later, in 1977, the Keiwasta Parliament voted to make school uniforms mandatory in all public schools, the first and only state to do this.
Adoption and implementation
After Keiwasta, they were next introduced in Ilanuras, followed by Vellonia, and by 1983 each state had at least one district or school that required uniforms.
The Department of Education has no guidelines in the design of school uniforms (and in fact, has yet to acknowledge them in any federal guideline) but they do follow general trends. Generally in districts that require them, there will be four versions of a male and female uniform: summer formal, summer casual, winter formal, and winter casual. Formal uniforms are worn for special school occasions such as prom, graduations, and other events of prestige while casual uniforms are for everyday class attendance. Summer uniforms will be lighter in color, feature short-sleeve shirts, and overall designed to be less bulky to accommodate summer heat. Winter uniforms will be the opposite, with long-sleeve shirts, thick material, and will come with a coat or jacket that fits the color scheme of the school. Most districts require that uniforms mandate they be designed to identify the school either with the school's name sewn onto the shirt (or coat/jacket) or the school's logo or mascot visible on the shirt (or coat/jacket). Most schools that require uniforms have different designs for boys and girls. For boys, they will typically wear dress trousers coupled with a button-shirt with a traditional or clip-on tie. Girls will wear a skirt usually below knee-length with a blouse and thin scarf that may be tied into a special knot depending on the school. Note that these are not universal in Alcenia and there is considerable variance between districts and even schools. For example, Walter J. Drummer High School in the La Casa Calliente Public Schools district only requires a red short sleeve polo shirt, leaving the choice to wear pants or skirts up to the students. In contrast, the Shepard Public School District requires a business casual uniform consisting of a suit and tie for boys and a dress for girls.
Cost of uniforms is usually covered by the school issuing them. They can prove to be costly depending on their complexity and quality. Parents and students usually demand high-quality materials be used due to the long-term nature of their use, which can increase the price to a high as $500 per student.
Debate and controversies
There has been increasing debate and discussion on school uniforms in Alcenia and whether they should be required. Debate intensified after several publicized cases of schools denying transgender students uniforms they preferred to wear. One of the first of these cases to reach national attention was that of Hannah Lindfield, a transgender woman who attended school in Halon, Iluvia. After announcing her transition, Lindfield requested she be issued the female uniform but was denied by school authorities, who also refused to recognize her new gender identity, arguing she did not pass as a woman and therefore could not be issued female uniforms. She staged a protest where she refused to wear any uniform and came to school in casual clothes. She was asked to leave but refused, saying she had a right to an education regardless of what she was wearing. School authorities called the police who attempted to escort her off the premises. When she resisted, she was arrested for trespassing. The case attracted attention from various LGBT and civil rights groups who offered their support to Lindfield. She filed a lawsuit against the school with the assistance of the Richard Teems Group, an LGBT legal assistance group. Lindfield and the school reached a settlement and was allowed to return to school with the female uniform.
There have also been stories that have been covered by national media of poor students not being allowed to go to school because they were not wearing the required uniform, which their family could not afford.
The most common arguments in favor of school uniforms are:
- Promotes equality - proponents argue as all students are required to have the same outfit, it creates a sense of equality and solidarity within the school.
- Reduces gang activity - gangs often identity themselves and organize using certain clothing and colors and proponents argue uniforms prevent this.
- Increases preparedness - proponents argue that keeping a uniform clean and presentable teaches students to be more prepared and organized.
The most common arguments against school uniforms are:
- Cost - opponents argue uniforms are expensive for parents and the school and that money spent on uniforms could go to better things.
- Restricts freedom of expression - children and teenagers often use clothing to establish their identities and opponents argue uniforms disrupt this.
- Increases risk of sexual assault and harassment - opponents argue uniforms puts female students at greater risk of sexual assault and harassment due to the "sexy schoolgirl" cultural trope.