NORWOOD PARK — After being besieged with complaints about Taft High School's uniform dress code, Principal Mark Grishaber announced Thursday he would allow students to wear what they want during the first two weeks of class.
Students — who have been urging administrators to abolish the uniform dress code for months — will get a chance to make their case for dropping it entirely at a forum on Sept. 11.
If the students can persuade a panel of judges made up of Local School Council members, parents, alumni and community members that it is the right thing to do, Grishaber said he would toss the deeply unpopular sartorial restrictions.
Heather Cherone says the dress code has long been a hot topic on the Northwest Side:
In a letter posted on Taft's website, Grishaber, a Norwood Park resident, said he has gotten nearly 30 emails about the uniform dress code every day since taking the top job July 1 at Taft, and has been stopped repeatedly in the grocery store and while out to dinner for pizza with his family and questioned about whether he plans to lift the requirement.
"I was originally going to let a few months pass while we acclimated to the new school year. However, I feel this issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible," Grishaber wrote.
During the first two weeks of school, Taft students will not have to wear the white, collared shirt and blue or black pants or jeans that have been required since the mid-1990s, Grishaber said. Some exceptions were made for clothing with the Taft logo.
Instead, students should wear "dark" pants — without holes or tears — and T-shirts of any color as long as they are not sleeveless. Girls may wear dresses or skirts, as long as they reach past their knees.
Shoes must be worn — and T-shirts must not be "offensive," Grishaber said.
"I feel it’s very important that our school community understands that this administration wants to empower our students and give them a voice in how they are educated," Grishaber wrote, adding that Taft must live up to the ideals that are part of the school's International Baccalaureate curriculum.
If students can make a case to the panel of judges that the code should be discarded, it will be dropped beginning Sept. 15, Grishaber said. The town hall meeting is 3:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 11 in the the school's auditorium, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Last month, the Taft Local School Council agreed to explore changes to the policy, which was imposed when Taft was struggling with gang conflicts. Grishaber has said those concerns are no longer relevant.
Selective-enrollment high schools throughout the city, such as Lane Tech High School and Northside College Prep, do not have a uniform dress code.
Many parents and students have suggested that the uniform dress code requirement is one reason many of the Far Northwest Side's highest-achieving students choose not to attend Taft.
The uniform dress code requirement also hurt the school's reputation by making it seem plagued with violence and trouble, according to parents.
Former acting Principal Carolyn Rownd told the LSC in the spring that teachers and staff opposed the lifting of the uniform dress code after hundreds of students signed a petition urging administrators to lift the rules.
Grishaber, who was an assistant principal at Whitney Young High School last year, has pledged to turn Taft into one of the city's best and to improve its less-than-stellar reputation.
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