By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

July 12, 1996

A few months ago I wrote in this column about a bill which established a pilot project in
Prince George's County public schools. The bill which passed the Maryland General
Assembly sets up a one-year experiment of mandatory school uniforms in that county.

The information was tacked on at the end of a column on several bills. I briefly
mentioned school uniforms and solicited input on the idea. I didn't, quite frankly, expect
the level of interest that the idea generated. As I travel around St. Mary's and Calvert
counties, even several months later, I still have people come up to me and
enthusiastically tell me what a wonderful idea it would be to require school uniforms.

One Calvert County mom wrote me about the cost of buying clothes for her sixth
grader. She talked of the $40 silk shirts and of spending $75 for several T-shirts which
her daughter's peers were all wearing and which she had to have too. The woman
wrote, "The students do remark about each others' clothes and shoes in the 6th grade
and I don't imagine it gets any easier in the higher grades."

From what people have told me it sure doesn't get any easier in the higher grades. As a
matter of fact the peer pressure to conform becomes even greater at high school age.
Everyone wants to be, in the words of my generation, "cool." We can advise all we
want about the reality that clothes don't make a person. Tell that to a 16-year-old girl
doing everything she can to get the attention of a boy she has a crush on. Tell that to a 1
5-year-old boy who just knows everyone will feel he's a nerd unless he dresses just

All of that pressure could be eliminated if everyone dressed alike. At that vulnerable age
maybe the kids will begin to make decisions about who they want to be their friends
based on more important factors than whether they wear Nikes or not.

I wore a uniform at Little Flower School in Great Mills. When I went on to Great Mills
High School we had a dress code in those days and were even required to wear a tie at
one point. I never felt left out by not having more flexibility in what to wear.

My aide Dick Myers tells me he wore a uniform all the way through primary and
secondary grades, first at a Catholic elementary school and then at a military high
school and he didn't feel deprived at all. It just never was an issue.

I feel that the cost factor is really important to many people as it was with the Calvert
County woman who wrote. Many people are financially pinched yet they want to do
what is best for their children. Shouldn't their financial priorities be in areas such as
nutrition and extracurricular activities which expand their children's horizons. With
expensive clothing removed from the equation the chances of a better education are
enhanced, not decreased.

With the interest in such an idea I am inclined to pursue it in the next Maryland General
Assembly session which begins in January. But there is an ideal forum to discuss the
issue between now and then. I would like to suggest it as a way to help me and the
other area legislators to make a final decision.

We are about to embark on a campaign in both counties for an elected school board. I
would hope that the candidates for elected school board would discuss the issue of
school uniforms during the campaign and also make their position known on it. This will
give the public a chance to react to the idea and give me a chance to assess that
reaction before next January.

So far everything I have heard has been positive on the issue. If you are opposed I'd be
interested in hearing your arguments. Write me at P.O. Box 229, Great Mills, MD
20634 or you can call my district office at 301-994-2826 or the Annapolis office,
1-800-492-7122, extension 3673.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]