January 24, 2003
The Board of Education of the Long Beach Unified School District this week unanimously approved the implementation of mandatory school uniforms at Millikan High School. Millikan will phase in its uniform policy one year at a time starting with this fall’s freshman class.
The LBUSD in 1994 became the first large school district in the nation to require uniforms districtwide in kindergarten through eighth grade. The decision sparked a nationwide trend. Schools found that uniforms helped reduce student absences and behavior problems while contributing to higher achievement.
Wilson High School in 1997 became the district’s first high school to implement uniforms. Since then, with mandatory uniforms the school has improved attendance and achievement and reduced suspensions. Many parents have placed their children on waiting lists to enroll. Hundreds of former private and parochial school students have enrolled at Wilson. Other high schools have noticed.
"The comment we frequently hear from our parents at Millikan is that Wilson provides a private school education without any additional cost to parents," said Millikan co-principal Dr. Jeffrey Cornejo. "Parents and staff are excited about bringing uniforms to Millikan. It’s going to make us more competitive."
Students will wear khaki/tan or Navy blue pants, shorts, jumpers or skirts and white or navy blue collared shirts or turtlenecks. The idea was proposed by parents who wanted students to look more professional. At a recent parent information meeting, nearly all of the 1,000 parents present applauded the move to uniforms. Staff at Millikan also voted in favor of uniforms.
In addition to wearing uniforms, incoming freshmen will participate in smaller learning communities which are expected to contribute to student performance, school climate and parent satisfaction. Teachers will work in teams serving these smaller groups of students, providing a strong system of support and sense of belonging for students. Uniforms have been most successful when they are part of a larger plan to raise standards not only in dress, but also in behavior and achievement.
"Mandatory school uniforms work," said Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. "They are an effective component of an effective instructional program. They produce safer schools. They reduce distractions. They provide an academic environment which supports the serious business of learning."
A decade ago, parents here expressed strong support for several pilot uniform programs then operating throughout the district. They asked the Board to adopt a mandatory school uniform program for grades K-8. The Board responded to their requests on January 18, 1994, and the schools went about the task of making the program a success. The students, parents, teachers and schools were so successful in implementing the program that it became a model for other school districts throughout the nation.
Because of the success of uniforms in local elementary and middle schools, parents asked the school district to consider adopting uniforms for high school students as well. The Board responded to that request on February 18, 1997 by approving mandatory uniforms for Wilson Classical High School, which since then has attracted a steady stream of students from throughout the district.