D209 Teachers Speak Out Against Dress Code Change

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Maggie Riley, the president of the teachers union, speaks against the district’s dress code policy change during a regular school board meeting on May 8.

Teachers at Proviso Township High Schools District 209 are pushing back against the school board’s move to get rid of the district’s uniform policy, arguing that the decision will contribute to an atmosphere of insubordination and disorder at the schools.

The teachers said that their point was proven by a massive water balloon fight at Proviso West High School earlier this month.

Starting next school year, students will be allowed to wear regular clothing as long as it doesn’t “disrupt the educational process, interfere with the maintenance of a positive teaching/learning climate, or compromise reasonable standards of health, safety, and decency.”

The new dress code policy — which was approved unanimously by the board in April but still needs to be finalized and added to the 2018-19 student handbook— is largely the work of members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board and a group of students who are part of an English class at Proviso East.

The students argued that since its implementation in 2014, the uniform policy has been unfairly and unevenly enforced, and has helped to perpetuate “racism, classism and sexism” in the district.

Most board members applauded what member Rodney Alexander, a proponent of uniforms, called the students’ “adult-like, board-like work.”

“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.”

But at a regular meeting on May 8, members of the Proviso Teachers Union didn’t feel the debate was settled. Although most of the teachers who spoke lauded the students’ effort to overturn the uniform policy, they countered with arguments of their own about the policy’s effectiveness.

“The uniforms do not promote racism, sexism and classism,” said Scott Hendrickson, a union member and social studies teacher at Proviso West. “They promote the very opposite. … I’ve worn uniforms with people from all races, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and sexes. Uniforms minimize differences and promote teamwork.”

Hendrickson said the union was not consulted about the policy change and the teachers’ view about the proposed change was not adequately considered.

“The union is especially concerned that there will be no enforcement of the new dress code and we’ll return to what we had in the past — students wearing belly shirts, spaghetti straps, short shorts,” he said.

The new dress code, which would debut next school year, like the current policy, prohibits most of the items Hendrickson stated, but both teachers and students who spoke during public meetings over the last two months complained about enforcement.

Maggie Riley, the teachers union president, said the union “believes that altering the uniform policy is still a mistake,” and “one teacher and a handful of students do not speak for the majority of our members.”

Riley added that “this entire year, the dress code has not been enforced,” and argued that the lack of uniform policy enforcement, in addition to the overall lax disciplinary culture throughout the district, may have been a contributing factor in a water balloon fight that took place at West on May 2.

Video footage of what appears to be students running through a hallway at West was posted to Facebook that day. The person who uploaded the content captioned that the scene was from a water balloon fight.

“It was so bad that at one point, administration from East and [Proviso Math and Science Academy] was sent over to help,” she said, adding that a maintenance person was hit with “several water balloons” and a “substitute teacher was so scared” that the person hid underneath a staircase.

Carissa Gillespie, an English teacher in the district who also has a child attending a D209 school, said during the May 8 meeting that the district should have solicited input from parents and community members through multiple outlets, including email, newsletter and meetings, before deciding on the policy change.

“Although I’m proud of the work a small number of our students did to bring about the new dress code,” she said.

“I’m not proud that most of our students learn that if you complain, or refuse to comply with the rules, District 209 will change the rules for you.” VFP

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8 thoughts on “D209 Teachers Speak Out Against Dress Code Change

  1. Thank you for the input. Strange that board members would automatically vote this in without parent and teacher input. Yes it does appear that the children are running the schools. Sad, now water balloons, I guess that is better than a weapon…

  2. So the board is content with students and the superintendent (that only wants to add high paid admin and not teAchers and the needed personnel) running the district? Why did they run?

  3. As a previous student from Proviso East, I went there through the change from no dress code to the strict dress code and I would agree that the dress code does make a difference in the behavior of the students. I disagree with the Board, hopefully, the teachers are heard.

  4. I must agree with the teachers, that the parent and community should have input. The uniforms are being paid for by the parents. The uniforms help the community residents to identify which school the kid belongs too or if they suppose to be in school during certain hours. The uniforms has meaning and kids don’t always understand this. We as adults need to make decisions for our kids, and not try to please them. This is called discipline. The kids are at school to learn and socialize outside of classes, not at school for a dress competition. Adults put things in perspective, not kids. Furthermore if the adminstration can’t control our schools, it’s time for them to be replace, end of story.

    1. So true !!!!!! We are so far from educating students it does not make sense. Dress code is not racist or sexist. Dress codes are a part of life. We are preparing students for life outside of 209 if they can’t follow simple directions. Stop blaming teachers and blame the administrators and board members and parents who let kids run wild. If you can’t do the job step aside.

  5. The uniforms are the oppression of civil rights that we’ve turned a blind eye to. I am a student of district 209, and I am very confident that those who are going against the, already established, verdict have no idea how hard these students fought so that the uniforms are removed. The very students that may have sat idle in your classes, cared enough to do something about the issue they believed in. I, personally, will not stand for those who are supposed to embrace the future, but instead oppress it through the slandering of the students efforts. Where is the love in this district for improvement? Isn’t the motto of each high school: “From good to great” or “Believe. Connect. Achieve.” Or “Rise up and be transformed”? This district is embracing a change for the generations that are changing this world. If this change isn’t to your taste, then I must ask, why did you not lead by example? Why are you a teacher if you care so much for a students’ attire? Are you so unhappy with your own lives that you have nothing better to do than pick on the littlest efforts for a better beginning instead of our education? I ask of the teachers who did not want the change, that you conduct yourselves accordingly. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all, like we, the students, were forced to be silenced when we objected to these changes, and had to wear a uniform. It’s funny how when things are flipped, no one ever recognizes that they are now walking in someone else’s shoes, and thus their struggles. As a student, I ask that you accept the decision like adults, and not children who simply argue because they didn’t get their way. This is district 209, that believes in “One team. One goal. One Proviso.” So let’s start acting like a team, and aspire to be the best that we can and work for a better reputation them fighting among ourselves. Wishing you all love, life, health, and happiness.

    1. ANAHI SOTO: You go girl! I applaud you for writing this on the post. As a graduate of Proviso East High School in 2003, I really applaud you and the students for voicing your concern about the school uniform policy. Some adults need to grow up. Some don’t want to hear the truth and can’t handle the truth. Keep going, Anahi! Let this experience to motivate you to be successful in life, and continue to prove people wrong. DO NOT let them get to you.

  6. I do want to say that I am glad that the board of education members of District 209 voted to get rid of the school uniform policy. When this was voted in 2014, I did not understand the uniform policy, because Proviso East and Proviso West are public schools, and Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy is a magnet school, and not private schools.

    I totally get that the dress code because some students come to the schools “saggin,” and associate the gang code. But…people and the residents need to know that it starts at home! It starts with parents being “parents” and teaching your child and disciplining your child. I can’t say it more abstract, and I am trying to tell you simple and straight forward.

    I have visited other public schools like Oak Park & River Forest High School, Lane Tech High School, York High School, and they don’t have a uniform dress code policy. I applaud the students at East, West, and PMSA for standing up and voicing their concern and demand change. Keep going students!

    To the message to the residents of the village of Maywood and the Proviso Township: We must expect more from ourselves, and stop accepting “status quo.” You’re not going to progress, and going to re-gress. Think about it!

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