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The great uniform debate
Area teens share strong opinions when it comes to school dress codes

There are two sides to every argument. Among the great debates for teenagers is over school uniforms: Are they good or bad? Do they help or hurt the student body? Should schools have them or should they be abolished? While it often seems as if most students pit themselves against uniforms, it is interesting to see both sides from private and public school students.

>Pro-uniform

Turning to private school students, the main points brought up in the argument seem to favor uniforms, rather than fight against them. Most comments revolve around the simplicity of wearing uniforms.

"You don't have to think about what you're going to wear," says Meghan Hayes, a junior at Immaculata Academy. "And it only takes you about two seconds to get ready for school."

Immaculata currently has an old uniform that juniors and seniors still wear, and a new uniform that all incoming students began wearing in 2008. The old uniform consists of a blue or white polo shirt and optional sweat shirt, with a blue plaid skort. The new one includes a blue skirt with a white oxford shirt and a tie, and an optional red, blue or gray sweater.

Having only these options, it is easy to wake up every morning and know exactly what you are going to put on. There is no searching through the closet to find the perfect outfit. And not worrying about the perfect outfit certainly lowers the stress level of getting dressed.

"You don't have to worry about what you look like, because everyone looks the same," says Natalie Vetter, also a junior at Immaculata.

"Sometimes when you're wearing your clothes, you're making sure that you're still looking good the whole day," says Meghan.

"On dress-down days, there are always those people that you know are like, 'Ew, I would never wear that,'" Natalie says. "With this, everyone has the same thing on."

While Immaculata has a strict uniform policy, it does allow dress-down days on occasional Fridays. Students are required to pay (usually a dollar) to wear their own clothes, and the money is sent to a charity.

While many believe that uniforms hold people back from expressing themselves, most Immaculata students don't believe uniforms hinder uniqueness.

"We can wear whatever shoes we want," Meghan said. "We can wear our hair whatever way we want, whatever jewelry we want, pretty much whatever type of makeup we want."

"We can accessorize in any way we want," Natalie adds.

Generally, students from schools with dress codes tend to feel the same way.

"You can still show your individuality through color schemes or small add-ons," says Patrick Zicari, a junior at Canisius High School. Canisius requires dress shirts, dress pants, dress shoes, ties, belts and other school-issued articles of clothing.

Patrick believes that a dress code prepares students for wearing proper types of clothing in the future, and keeps students from wearing offensive or inappropriate clothes, while still allowing an amount of freedom.

St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute has a similar code to Canisius.

"I love the dress code," said Dan Courtney, a junior at St. Joe's. "I enjoy dressing for the business world."

Dan also agrees that the code eliminates inappropriate clothing, and makes outfit choices much easier. He also thinks that it equalizes the student body. "Kids are never made fun of or idolized for the clothes they wear."

Robert Simoneit, a Niagara Catholic senior, stresses that uniforms help students focus on class rather than clothes.

"They're not always paying attention on dress-down days," he says.

Turning to public school students, some also believe that uniforms would be a better way to go.

"They would eliminate socialite fashion competition between girls and boys," says Lara Larsson, a junior at Franklinville Central. "Many times, people are categorized and stereotyped by how they dress."

Lara also doesn't believe that uniforms take away any sort of self-expression.

"Isn't that what the arts are for?" she asks, adding that people can still show individuality through music, theater, painting and other activities. "Is there really a need to buy someone else's creativity that they placed on a shelf?"

Another prominent point is that uniforms are less expensive.

Lara said, "[Uniforms] would save money for parents who spend [a lot] on their children's school clothing."

>Anti-uniform

Looking at the opposite point of view, many students believe they are at a disadvantage when wearing uniforms.

"Uniforms are basically supporting unity," offers Nicole Weiss, a senior at Immaculata. "But I think our differences are what really bring us together. When I'm wearing my clothes, I'm saying, 'Hey, this is me, and I am not afraid to express it.'"

At a school like Immaculata, which promotes strength, leadership and reaching your full potential, Nicole believes uniforms restrain students.

"They stick us in [uniforms] while at the same time telling us, 'Each one of you is different,'" she said. "Well, if we're different, then why can't we show it?"

"Leaders start their own trends," she adds, challenging the idea that everyone should look the same. "We're supposed to forge our own paths."

In response to the "simplicity" of uniforms, Nicole disputes that this kind of attitude implies insecurity. "[It's like] not wanting to take the time to put on the real you, and instead wearing a mask."

Like Canisius and St. Joe's, St. Francis High School enforces a strict dress code of proper "work" attire.

Zach Forys, a senior at St. Francis, also believes in more freedom in clothing. He explains that the dress codes are too distracting.

"I think students' learning capabilities would be enhanced [without dress codes]," he said. "We wouldn't have to be like, 'Oh, I don't have a belt,' and focus on that instead of what we're actually there for, which is to learn and better our education."

Public school students also support this opinion.

"Uniforms are plain and don't show any emotion," says Tyler Wright, a sophomore at Eden Central.

Tyler also believes that self-expression is greatly reduced with the enforcement of uniforms. Wearing your own clothes helps show who you are as a person.

"Since I am a huge hockey fan, I like to wear hockey jerseys," he said. "If we had to wear uniforms, I feel that they would take a piece of me away."

Analyzing the case, clearly there is relevant data to support both viewpoints. Surprisingly, most private school students seem to favor their uniforms or dress codes, while most public school students prefer to go without them. Perhaps certain people must experience uniform dress in order to support it. However, when it comes down to it, the decision over the matter seems to be one of personal opinion.

Alyssa Phillips is a junior at Immaculata Academy.

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