After Students Rise Up, D209 Ditches Uniforms

Sunday, April 29, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Students at Proviso West in 2014, the year students across D209 were required to wear uniforms. | District 209

Four years after students at Proviso Township High Schools District 209 were required to wear uniforms of polos and khakis, the monotony is out the door, driven off largely by what many adults in the district have described as a very disciplined, student-led rebellion against the uniform policy.

During a regular meeting on April 10, the D209 school board unanimously voted to ditch part of a board policy that required students to “wear the uniform prescribed in the Student Handbook on all days in which school is in session, with certain exceptions.”

Starting next school year, students’ wardrobes will no longer be exclusive to long- and short-sleeve knit polos without logos (only black, white or school colors acceptable); plain khaki skirts, with knee-length hems, for girls; flat or pleated khaki trousers for either gender.

Instead, the new policy on student appearance will only require that dress and grooming “not disrupt the educational process, interfere with the maintenance of a positive teaching/learning climate, or compromise reasonable standards of health, safety, and decency.”

The policy change came after mounting student complaints about how staff and faculty at Proviso East, Proviso West and Proviso Math and Science Academy were enforcing the uniform policy and how the policy may run counter to the district’s commitments to equity and social justice. 

According to a 2014 article in the Forest Park Review, the uniform policy had been designed to “combat perceptions of gang-affiliated clothing and colors” and to decrease various other distractions related to student appearance.

Less than five years later, however, students complain that the measure has devolved into a tool to perpetuate “racism, classism and sexism,” according to one Proviso East senior who had a hand in crafting the new dress code policy.

Although the 2014 uniform policy came about after a rigorous, months-long vetting process by a committee that included four students (one each from East and West and two from PMSA), and the input of thousands of students and community members through focus groups and an online survey, its undoing was the result of students who, after years of complaining, drafted an alternative dress code policy largely of their own making.

“This was not a priority for the board,” said D209 board member Nathan Wagner during the April 10 meeting.

“The only reason this happened was because of the students. The students said we don’t want uniforms, we want a dress code,” Wagner said. “They weren’t just complaining. They came up with a solution — an excellent solution and they were part of this process.”

According to a memo about the policy change drafted by district officials, two groups of students “engaged in study and discussion of the student uniform and dress code issues during the current school year.”

Those students included “members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board and a group of students from Proviso East who have been studying the uniform and dress code issue as part of their work in English classes taught by Ms. Ashley Avila, which are also part of the Competency Based Education pilot at Proviso East.”

The students met with staff members to discuss how the dress code tied to the larger issues of school climate and safety, district officials stated.

“In general, the students were interested in ensuring that such discretion was consistently and fairly utilized. The students understood, however, that room for administrative discretion is needed,” officials said in the memo.

“All participants agreed that a key element to successfully achieving compliance would be to teach students about and encourage a standard of ‘dressing for success,'” they added, “rather than focusing solely on what they were not allowed to wear.”

According to a draft of the proposed policy, the new dress code will prohibit some articles of clothing that are already banned, including short skirts, sagging pants and crop tops. Things like flip flops, cleated shoes, hats, shower caps and night caps will also remain prohibited.

Alex Gomez, a Proviso East sophomore and member of the student advisory board, said during the April 10 meeting that he and his peers believe that a transition from a uniform requirement to a dress code will prompt deeper dialogues about style standards.

“We understand the need for a dress code, but we also believe that it’s just as important to talk to students about why they follow a certain standard of dress instead of focusing on what they can and cannot wear,” Gomez said.

Board member Rodney Alexander was so impressed by the students’ work that he voted for the policy change even though he supports the uniform policy.

“I’m 110 percent uniform but because of the adult-like, board-like work [the students] have done, you have to yield to their expressions and their education process and their ability to communicate and put this argument together,” Alexander said. “They’ve pretty much won the argument.” 

The new dress code policy language is now headed to the desks of district administrators as they prepare the 2018-19 student handbook, which will be presented to the school board for approval later this year before it’s published. VFP 

For more local news, ‘Like’ our Facebook page 

Mothers Day Event Flyer 2018 Final

8 thoughts on “After Students Rise Up, D209 Ditches Uniforms”

  1. I can see these kids coming in pajamas now t shirts and pajama bottoms and slippers. Sad this will be interesting.

  2. Yes, Janet, and let’s not forgive the gals coming in barely enough clothes to cover themselves. Icky.

  3. This is absolutely ridiculous.

    You just have to learn to deal with the uniforms. You seriously can’t handle the six or so hours of school in a uniform? Just ridiculous. Once again, just giving into the students.

    You will soon hear about people breaking the dress code or harassing the way someone dresses or someone (usually the females) who will be showing something off in those tight pants and tops that expose the top due to how tight they are or the way the shirt is made or the guys with the sagging pants or overly huge shirts.

    Anyone thinking a out of uniform school is better for education is just wrong.

    How do you expect these people to act when they get jobs and must be in a full on uniform? That is, if they do get jobs.

    Most of the students in these Dist 209 schools went to Dist 89 schools that were all uniform, so why give the challenge in high school? Too bad if it went all uniform while you were going there, there were people who went to the Dist 89 schools and each and every one are all uniform only schools and no complaining there, A couple of the schools were going into transition to being a middle school and not a elementary school, and some graduated the year before it happened and did not get that opportunity to experience it. They have all these support classes now for those who struggle in math or reading- and even one for science and all these classes such as drama and working with instruments and a better understanding/awareness of bulling, depression, and self harm. Also more supports for those with special educational needs. You hear nobody complaining about this even though this is better preparing for that high school feel to it (with the class set up). I know this is a totally different issue than the uniforms but still has effects.

    Deal with being in the uniform for the six or so hours while you are in school. I mean, all they all end up doing anyway is just able to change out of them when you get home and hang with friends. You can wait toll after school to dress how you want and to “express yourself.”

    Just ridiculous how the Dist 209 schools gave in. Big deal students were upset. They could have learned to deal with it. They aren’t four year olds. They are in high school and need to learn to deal with something as simple as wearing a uniform in school.

    Now lets just let them keep on drinking underage and getting into drugs and smoking underage, and having sex and getting pregnant while still in high school, They deserve to get consequence. Stop with all these little drop off daycare in schools and little support groups for these people they made a choice and are old enough to know it is wrong, no peer pressure it’s all based on a choice you make.

    There are much bigger issues with the world than upset high school students all because they have to be in a uniform.

    1. You are missing the point, it’s a human right, it’s freedom of expression. I applaud the students for standing up for the rights given by the Constitution, everything has consequences, but give them a chance. Now think of it this way, what you are saying is ,that Martin Luther King Jr shouldn’t have gone through the struggles to make things right? As far as them going to school in PJs, people in college do it, who says it’s wrong? You? Clothes has nothing to do with education!! It has to do with gang affiliation, it’s not right to punish all for the bad doings of a few. It’s called stereotyping. Isn’t that a problem in the black and Hispanic communities? Look in all directions and see the public schools of the neighboring Elmhurst, Westchester, and so on, those kids don’t use uniforms!!! Why are our kids any different? What makes them different, I will tell you, it’s the up brings. Focus on fixing that not on branding our kids as cattle. They are on the short end of the stick already. Much love to all.

  4. This is great. Please notice that “two groups of students engaged in study and discussion of the student uniform and dress code issues during the current school year.”

    Student led organization is a hallmark of intelligence and free thought. The students not only organized but also drafted a solution in the form of an updated policy.

    Let’s celebrate that District 209 is creating advocates who are willing to put forth solutions that address their issues. We need an engaged and solution-oriented citizenry and District 209 has apparently helped produce students who are capable of actively engaging in society in a thoughtful and constructive manner. We need to encourage them to continue to advocate for issues that are important to them and allow them to accept a greater stake in their education and its environment. Soon, they will be able to engage in issues that are important to all of Proviso and be the forward-thinking, solution-oriented leaders that our community wants.

    There may be hiccups due to the removal ofthe dress code, but the lessons learned will hopefully allow other students to engage in more and different problem-solving. As our students continue to express their ability to be engaged thinkers and solvers, all of Proviso wins.

  5. Big. Mistake. I will support the students if they stood up for lack of technology or lack of activities but wearing a uniform? The reason we went to uniforms was because students were on able to adhere to a simple dress code. Parents were unable to keep tabs on what their kids were wearing. There were too many body parts being seen, belly rings, cleavage, etc. the problem is the administration in all the buildings never supported or enforce the dress code. They allow the teachers to be the bad guys when they enforce it. The only thing that the students came up with for the new dress code is to “ dress for success”. I support students wanting to express themselves but I do not support the district allowing children to make decisions, their input is important but less remember why we went to uniforms in the first place. If we think not having dress code is going to make things better just wait until the next school year. Once again 209 is inconsistent And in the end the kids, the discipline, and the test scores will suffer

  6. So Dr. Rodriguez,

    Yesterday one of your schools was in turmoil! At Proviso West on 5/3 there was a huge water balloon fight that escalated into fights, teachers and staff being harmed, and students being in fear. The hallways were in CHAOS. Instead of seeing the problems for yourself you sent people from other buildings i to assist. I guess you were busy completing menial translation tasks?

    Instead of fighting for thee high paid administrators, let’s hire more deans and more security, open an alternative school or hire a firm that actually does and enforces residency checks.

    You are not “One Proviso” as you claim (though it is a nice catchphrase). It seems to be Two Provisos (East/West and PMSA) and Jesse’s team. Let’s stop throwing temper tantrums because your people don’t get jobs and let’s get this district together.

    What pushed the disorder yesterday? No uniforms and no discipline! It has been building up all year.You are letting kids make decisions and this is the result of it.


    Right now the adults are a joke to the students because the people who make the decisions don’t enforce them.

  7. I just want to say that I’m so glad that the students of District 209 collaborated and stood up, and had their voices be heard. I did not understand why the high schools need uniforms in the first place. I am a graduate of Proviso East High School, and when I was a student…we never had to wear uniforms. We are a public school and uniforms are for private schools only.

    I have been to other public high schools in the West Suburbs like Oak Park & River Forest High School, York High School, Leyden High School, Lane Tech High School, and etc. and don’t have a school policy of wearing uniforms.

    It’s really disturbing that the former board members of District 209 in 2014 that voted the policy to have the high school wear uniforms, was treating symptoms and not treating the root causes. It starts at home and it’s called parents being parents, and raising your children with values and principles. Think about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.