The Proviso Township High School dress code already forbids droopy trousers, flip-flops and exposed brassieres, but the District 209 school board talked at their meeting, Dec. 10, about determining what students will wear next year. The board seems set to vote on the uniform issue at their Jan 14 meeting.

“It’s important to have a clean and neat appearance,” said board member Readith Ester.

Public high school students wearing uniforms is not unusual for the region. Students at Morton High School District 201 in Cicero/Berwyn have been wearing white polo shirts and khaki pants since 2009.

Under the proposed dress code, students would wear a long-sleeved or short-sleeved black, white, or school-colored (royal blue, red or purple) knit polo shirt (without logos) with plain khaki shorts or trousers (black or brown belt) when school is in session.

For males, shirts must be worn tucked into the pants or shorts. Undergarments, if visible through the polo shirt, must be white in color. Khaki trousers with extra pockets (cargo pants) are not allowed. Shorts must be worn at the waist and sagging pants are not allowed.

Female students also have the option of wearing skirts if they are not too short (hem below the length of fingertips extended, held at the side). Socks or plain tights may be worn though patterned stockings would not be acceptable. Leggings could not be worn as pants.

Shirts must be logo-free, but board member Brian Cross said he could envision creating shirts with the school logos embroidered on them: The pirate for Proviso East, a panther for Proviso West and the python for Proviso Math and Science Academy. 

There was discussion of how teachers would enforce the skirt- and shirt-lengths.  Project Administrator Dan Johnson explained the “below the length of the fingertips held at the side” language was borrowed from another school district’s uniform policy and was meant to avoid situations of adults measuring the length of girls’ skirts. “This is no-touching,” Johnson said.

Board member Kevin McDermott pointed out the policy was vague on type of shoes worn. He remembered stories of students having expensive gym shoes stolen by other students, he said. 

But his suggestion to try “Oxfords or penny loafers” was quickly shot down by other board members and administrators. 

Allowing a choice of shoes was “a concession for [the district],” D209 Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart said. 

“The students had strong opinions about that,” she added. “The more restrictions we put on them, the more problematic it becomes,” she said. 

Board member Teresa McKelvy said she could see specifying black or white gym shoes, and Francine Harrell agreed: “Our children wear gym shoes; that’s what they wear,” Harrell said.

Students, parents and community stakeholders were given a chance to weigh in through an online survey until Dec. 9.

Johnson also met with groups of students and asked them to explain why they liked or didn’t like the plan. 

Students gathered at PMSA answered a survey by texting with their phones, answering questions about whether objections were based on personal creativity, the ability to stand out from a crowd, or the ability to blend in with a group. Johnson also asked students for a show of hands if they wore uniforms at paying jobs.

Johnson said the policy was developed to feature one out-of-uniform Friday per month, to be determined by individual principals, to build school spirit or as motivation to meet a goal, such as attendance. 

Board President Dan Adams said he thought students would respond positively to that based on his children’s experience with out-of-uniform days at their private school. 

The policy would also ban hats, caps, bandanas, jackets and hoodies during the school day. These items would be kept in students’ lockers during school. 

Members of the advisory committee included Supt. Collins-Hart, Johnson, Curriculum Director Kim Echols, Publicity Director Roberto Daniel, assistant principals from all three high schools, teachers and deans. Three students each from Proviso East and West serve on the committee, as well as two students from PMSA. 

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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