Somehow having a school uniform policy, but making it voluntary, seems beside the point.
Among the many ideas being contemplated as the Salem schools seek to lift themselves from Level 4 status (see letters to the editor on this subject elsewhere on this page) is allowing individual schools within the district to adopt uniforms. The idea has been tried before, without much success, perhaps because state law prohibits public schools from mandating that students wear a certain type of clothing.
There's a belief among some that not only do uniforms reduce the pressure on students to keep up with their peers in terms of dress, but they also equate to better behavior in school.
But the latter argument misses the point. Wearing a uniform is simply an acknowledgement of the authority wielded by school administrators. Where there's a lack of respect for the people in charge, discipline — and learning — suffers.
In our view, having a school uniform, but making it a matter of individual choice, is a waste of time. It's more important parents teach their children to respect those at the front of the classroom and in the principal's office.