Dress code policy: GB East students push back – what is West’s official policy?


West’s dress code policy as defined in the Glenbard West Student Handbook.

The beginning of the school year typically consists of warm weather, catching up with friends, and struggling to adjust to the new schedule of waking up early and attending classes. However, with the warm weather comes the topic of school dress codes.

In August of this school year, the controversial topic has been brought to the public eye once again, and this time in one of our own Glenbard schools. During the first day of school, students at Glenbard East High School came home quite upset. According to the Chicago Tribune, parents of several female students claim their daughters were given bright orange T-shirts to wear due to their tank tops violating the school dress codes.

In an article by The Daily Herald, reporters Susan Sarkauskas and Bob Smith interviewed Deanna Breen, a mother of an East sophomore—who was not one of the students directly involved— who claimed that the girls were being “shamed” and that the school intended to “humiliate” the girls.

The dress code at Glenbard East (which is included in the student handbook) states “clothing considered to be revealing and does not adequately cover the front, back, sides, shoulders or midriff is prohibited on males and females.” It also mentions “if, in the judgment of school officials, modes of dress or appearance are distracting or disruptive to the progress of the educational program, the student and parent will be notified and the student will be required to change immediately.”

A statement issued by Peg Mannion, the Glenbard District community relations coordinator, to The Daily Herald reveals that the female students in question at Glenbard East were actually given a choice of “[a] variety of T-shirts…in various colors” and students always have the option of “borrowing T-shirts and/or calling parents/guardians.”

Parents had more to say, on the other hand, specifically involving issues related to sexism. According to the Chicago Tribune, Deanna Breen, the mother a sophomore at East, claimed, “I can tell you outright the students were being shamed.” One of the students who was found in violation of the dress code, Chloe Lynch, explained how she felt a sense of discrimination when the conflict occurred. An article by Dana Rebik, reporter of WGN, mentioned, “It was clear there were boys wearing muscle Ts where it was not just their shoulders being shown,” insinuating that they had not been penalized.

The district-wide Glenbard 87 handbook states, “Students’ dress and grooming must not disrupt the educational process, interfere with the maintenance of a positive teaching/learning climate, or compromise reasonable standards of health, safety, and decency. Procedures for handling students who dress or groom inappropriately will be developed by the superintendent and included in the Parent-Student Handbook.” Examples as to what those procedures might look like are unlisted.

Glenbard West’s specific handbook regarding dress code is worded slightly differently and states a dress code violation is “any item which constitute a threat to the safety or health of self or others, reference alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or violence, is offensive by the wording or design, or suggestive of a double meaning and/or is not gang related in any form or manner is prohibited.” The West handbook then refers to the district-wide Glenbard handbook on the portion concerning student appearance.

When questioned as to why the district policy differs from the individual school policies, Peg Mannion referred the inquiry to West’s Deans’ Office, who responded by explaining that “each school is allowed a certain level of autonomy when it comes to how board policies are enforced in each building.” Essentially, each of the Glenbard schools is open to interpret the specifics when it comes to the student appearance policies.

When asked why the district-wide student appearance policy in the Glenbard Handbook does not specifically mention what is prohibited, the Deans’ Office mentioned that “at West, we wanted to take the focus away from antiquated appearance norms which could be gender-specific and instead focus on apparel or dress that is considered a threat to student safety as a whole.”

When asked what determines a violation of the policy, the West Deans’ Office referred back to student appearance policy in the Board Handbook. They also mentioned that they “ask that staff not enforce policy but instead notify the deans” because “the deans and Assistant Principal of Student Services [Mr. Mitchell] handle all policy violations in their respective buildings.”

On top of this, at the beginning of the year, an announcement was issued pertaining to student appearance at West. Although no official transcript of this announcement was available, the Deans’ Office did give some insight into how they crafted the message. In an official statement by the Deans’ Office, it is explained that “the deans worked together, referencing board policies, to communicate expectations at the beginning of the year.” The head of the Deans’ Office, Alexandra Taylor, mentioned that an announcement reminding students of the appearance policy will come again during the springtime.

When asked how the event at East impacts students at West, Mr. Mitchell, Assistant Principal of Student Services, explained that “anytime there is any kind of an incident close to home or in this area, you kind of go back and are reflective of your practices and procedures, and what your language looks like in your handbook and other places. It helps us to shine a spotlight on what we’re doing right and what we can improve on.”

When asked who drafted the language in our student handbook and whether or not the school would be open to revising the policy, Mr. Mitchell said, “The language in our handbook was drafted by me and the deans.” He also explained that when it comes revising the school’s policy, he looked at other school handbooks in the area, particularly on hats, and “took and edited that to fit Glenbard West.”

Overall, the district has taken the issue seriously, and each school has created a set of policies that they believe fits the criteria.

If students have any further questions, Mrs. Taylor advises they ask their dean.