Sasha Karasik, Reporter

Having to wear bland colors, tight itchy pants and weird ties is not an experience I signed up for when deciding to go to a pluralistic school. Imposing school uniforms would go against everything that CESJDS stands for. 

JDS is one of few pluralistic Jewish day schools across America, and it prides itself specifically on its ability to cultivate environments that are open-minded, welcoming, tolerant and diverse. School uniforms embody the opposite of those values. They strip students’ individuality and force them to conform to outdated traditional gender roles. 

For boys, standard school uniforms include collared, buttoned shirts, ties and khakis. For girls, the shirts and ties are usually the same, but tighter. Instead of pants, girls usually have to wear skirts and socks that cut strangely below the knee. Many schools nowadays allow girls to wear trousers, but even if JDS were to provide this choice, the options would still be limited. 

In today’s society, girls wearing pants has been mostly normalized, but what if a masculine student wants to wear a skirt or a dress? Gendered school uniforms stifle gender expression and limit students’ ability to explore and affirm their identities.Even with all the variation JDS could provide, we need to be able to explore both our gender and sexual identities, and clothing is an excellent way to do that. If a school uniform was enforced, it’s impossible to tell how many queer people would feel erased or even unwelcome. Letting us dress ourselves gives us the opportunity to express whatever we want, creating a safer and more comfortable environment for us to learn in. 

School uniforms not only reinforce traditional gender roles but they also perpetuate the issues of sexism. The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation organized a study focusing on students’ physical activity level and found that certain school uniforms actually discourage girls from participating in physical activities. We shouldn’t add another obstacle that prevents girls at JDS from achieving their full potential.

Being able to wear whatever we want, specifically at a Jewish day school, enriches our religious education. We’re able to see so many different types of Jews, practicing and non-practicing, who wear different types of clothes. This helps us recognize that all of them are equally Jewish and how clothing does not define the legitimacy of someone’s faith. A uniform, although unintentionally, would teach us to think that Jews should only look or dress one way.  

Additionally, it is a common myth that school uniforms ease the financial burden of teenagers buying clothes. According to a study by the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, researchers found that uniforms do not replace a student’s clothing, and parents end up spending more money on clothes when uniforms are required. I mean, we’re still teenagers. Implementing school uniforms only adds to the list of clothes that we will inevitably wind up buying, not to mention extra costs for tailoring. 

Getting uniforms tailored is a common occurrence when schools require them. Teenages bodies are constantly fluctuating and changing, so it’s expected of students to get them fitted to their size. 

Child and teen development specialist Robyn Silverman told NBC News’ Today that students, especially female students, tend to compare how they look in their uniforms with others: “As a body image expert, I hear from students all the time that they feel it allows for a lot of comparison… So if you have a body that’s a plus-size body, a curvier body, a very tall body, a very short body, those girls often feel that they don’t look their best.” Arizona State University also did a study on this and found that “students from schools without uniforms reported higher self-perception scores than students from schools with uniform policies.” 

Uniforms do nothing to make people feel more included or comfortable in school. What actually makes us feel secure in school is being able to choose and express ourselves however we want. Even if there are others who aren’t particularly fond of your outfit, it doesn’t matter because you chose it and you feel confident in it. Forcing students to wear the exact same outfits just makes everyone compare and constantly judge themselves against others. 

School uniforms, especially at JDS, would take away from the diverse Jewish perspectives that students experience and would suppress students’ identities. I get that it’ll be easier to get dressed in the morning, at least for students who are comfortable in the set of gendered and monotonous clothing that the administration prescribes, but for a pluralistic school, enforcing uniforms would be a pretty totalitarian decision.