The Niagara Falls Review

School uni­forms won’t stop bul­ly­ing: ex­perts

- SHAWN JEFFORDS

ST. CATHARINES — School uni­forms do noth­ing to pre­vent bul­ly­ing.

So says Tony Volk, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor Brock Univer­sity re­searcher who has done ex­ten­sive re­search on bul­ly­ing. He said a con­tro­ver­sial Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board pro­posal to in­tro­duce uni­forms in its el­e­men­tary schools will not have an im­pact on bul­ly­ing, as the board has sug­gested.

“Over­all, there is no ev­i­dence in bul­ly­ing lit­er­a­ture that sup­ports a re­duc­tion in vi­o­lence due to school uni­forms,” he said.

“Bul­lies are smart. They will just find some other way to show sta­tus. Who has the best ipod, who has the most games at home, who went on the big­gest va­ca­tion. If kids want to pick on some­one about how rich or how poor they are, clothes are one ob­vi­ous sym­bol but there are a lot of other ob­vi­ous ways for them to do it.”

The board will start rolling out the pro­posed pol­icy at a se­ries of meet­ings for par­ents be­tween March 20 and May 2. The pol­icy would also clamp down on stu­dents’ tat­toos, pierc­ings and hair dye in its high schools.

The board said it’s look­ing at the pol­icy for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing its im­pact on re­duc­ing bul­ly­ing, en­hanc­ing school safety by spot­light­ing out­siders who visit the school and by en­cour­ag­ing a fo­cus on aca­demics and school spirit.

Volk said re­search also shows school uni­forms do lit­tle to in­crease aca­demic per­for­mance in schools.

“Some peo­ple have the mis­taken be­lief that it’s as­so­ci­ated with more dis­ci­pline, when it re­ally isn’t. Putting on a set of clothes doesn’t change a child.”

York Univer­sity psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor and bul­ly­ing re­searcher De­bra Pe­plar agrees there is lit­tle ev­i­dence to sug­gest uni­forms curb bul­ly­ing.

She is a mem­ber of PREVNET, a na­tional net­work of Cana­dian re­searchers, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ments com­mit­ted to stop bul­ly­ing.

“I know of no re­search to sup­port this,” she said in an e-mail.

“We con­ducted re­search in in­de­pen­dent and pub­licly funded schools and there were few dif­fer­ences in rates of bul­ly­ing and vic­tim­iza­tion. We didn’t pub­lish the data sep­a­rately for type of school be­cause there were no dif­fer­ences.

“Bul­ly­ing is a very com­plex prob­lem and there is not a sin­gle so­lu­tion that will solve it. We un­der­stand bul­ly­ing as a re­la­tion­ship prob­lem that re­quires re­la­tion­ship so­lu­tions. This is not a so­lu­tion that will change the qual­ity of re­la­tion­ships in the schools.”

Volk, who has a child in the Ni­a­gara Catholic school sys­tem, said the board would be bet­ter off fo­cus­ing its ef­forts else- Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board will roll out its pro­posed uni­form pol­icy at a se­ries of eight meet­ings across the re­gion, all of which start at 7 p.m. Here are the dates and lo­ca­tions: Lakeshore Catholic: March 20 Blessed Trin­ity: March 28 Denis Mor­ris: March 29 Holy Cross: April 16 St. Fran­cis: April 17 Saint Michael: April 30 Saint Paul: May 1 Notre Dame: May 2 where if bul­ly­ing.

“If the school board was se­ri­ous about re­duc­ing bul­ly­ing, it should do a study and use meth­ods that work rather than school uni­forms,” he said.

But Wel­land res­i­dent Lisa Al­ward said re­gard­less of what the re­search says, she was bul­lied as a child for what she wore. Now with two daugh­ters in the school sys­tem, she’s happy to see uni­forms might be in­tro­duced.

“I got made fun of be­cause my clothes were home­made,” she said. “I see that some kids have more money than oth­ers and bet­ter cloth­ing. Girls get put in groups be­cause of what brand names they can af­ford.

“I think that ev­ery kid should be equal, es­pe­cially in the Catholic sys­tem be­cause of our faith.”

Al­ward said she thinks the board could help par­ents who would strug­gle with the costs of the new uni­forms by hold­ing uni­form trade- in days and mak­ing sec­ond- hand store lo­ca­tions avail­able.

“It’s so much eas­ier get­ting up in the morn­ing and not hav­ing to fight with your sixor seven- year- old about what they’re go­ing to wear. They can dress them­selves at an ear­lier age. This is what you wear and that is it.”

Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board su­per­in­ten­dent of hu­man re­sources and safe

its goal

is to pre­vent schools Frank Ian­nan­tuono said Tues­day ar­range­ments could be made to help par­ents with more than two chil­dren re­ceive dis­counts on the uni­forms.

Notre Dame Catholic High School stu­dent Michael Dube said he thinks stu­dents at the el­e­men­tary level and their par­ents won’t mind the uni­forms if the pol­icy is ap­proved. The Grade 12 stu­dent has spent the past four years in a uni­form at school and said he likes it.

“You never have to think in the morn­ing,” he said. “You can wake up 20 min­utes be­fore you go to school.”

He also thinks de­spite the re­search, kids are bul­lied over what they wear at school. It won’t be an is­sue for younger chil­dren, but as they reach Grades 6, 7 and 8, it will play a role, he said.

“Some peo­ple are sen­si­tive to the brand is­sues, so this could be a good thing for them.”

How­ever, Dube said he’s not happy with en­trench­ing school rules about tat­toos, pierc­ings and hair dye into board pol­icy. The board has said the items are dis­tract­ing and take away from the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment in the class­room.

“I think it’s ridicu­lous,” he said. “It’s not go­ing to change the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

Dube said a friend of his who has an eye­brow ring is sent home reg­u­larly.

“If any­thing, what’s tak­ing some­thing away from the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment is that she gets sent home ev­ery day to take it out.”

Volk said clamp­ing down on stu­dents’ free­dom to ex­press them­selves sets a poor prece­dent and might in­spire re­bel­lious at­ti­tudes in stu­dents who might have oth­er­wise been con­tent with the sys­tem.

“I think all kids respond best to rules and pun­ish­ments that have a good rea­son be­hind them,” he said.

“When there isn’t a good rea­son be­hind and you’re ba­si­cally say­ing con­form be­cause we want you to con­form, then that is not a good mes­sage.”

 ??  ?? The Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board in­tends to ban stu­dents’ pierc­ings among other things in high schools.
The Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board in­tends to ban stu­dents’ pierc­ings among other things in high schools.
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