Abell Salutes: Greenspring Middle School’s “Uniformity of Character” Program

April 1998 / Salutes / Education

School uniforms are making a difference.

“School crime has decreased 36 percent.”

“Leaving class without permission is down 47 percent.”

“There has been an overall improvement in the school climate and a greater focus on positive behavior.”

These comments from principals in schools around the country where uniforms have been made mandatory, came to the attention of, and intrigued, Mr. Audrey Bundley, principal of Greenspring Middle School in Baltimore. The positive effects of school uniforms wherever they had been introduced prompted Mr. Bundley to ask: What contribution would mandatory school uniforms make to his own school’s character building program?

With parent and student support and a $25,830 grant from The Abell Foundation, school uniforms were introduced at Greenspring Middle in the fall of 1997. Although there is some leeway, students must wear plain white shirts, khaki pants or skirts. Students who wear baggy pants and no belt must come to the office to get a length of string to wear as a belt. Mirrors are posted around the school and students are told, “Look in the mirror and take responsibility for yourself.”

What has been the effect of mandatory school uniforms in Greenspring Middle School? “There is no direct cause and effect,” Mr. Bundley says, “but my sense is that mandatory uniforms are making a very positive contribution to our overall program of character building. They are helping to make possible in our school what I call ‘uniformity of character.’

“In 1995 and 1996 our attendance was 79 percent; year to date in 1998 it is 87 percent. School discipline data reflects the same positive influence of the uniforms. In February 1997 there were 705 office referrals [for discipline problems]; a year later there were 266.

“Uniforms help give us our uniformity. They identify us to ourselves and to our community. Because I believe school uniforms have made an important difference in the behavior of our students and in the spirit of our faculty and parent group, Greenspring Middle will have uniforms as long as I am the school principal.”

Abell salutes Mr. Bundley for the sensitivity, energy, and administrative skills he brought to bear to make, through the use of uniforms, Greenspring Middle a better school.