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Taft Ends Uniform Dress Code After Students, Parents, Alumni Make Appeal

By Heather Cherone | September 12, 2014 7:38am
  The rules were imposed when Taft was struggling with gang conflicts, which are no longer an issue.
Taft Dress Code Scrapped
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NORWOOD PARK — Taft students can say goodbye to white collared shirts and blue or black pants — forever.

The Taft High School Local School Council unanimously voted Thursday afternoon to scrap the neighborhood high school's decades-old uniform dress code after a panel of seven students made its case against it during a town hall-style meeting.

The LSC's vote came after a panel of parents, alumni and community members recommended that the code be scrapped starting Monday.

“Gray and white are prison colors,” said Matt Mach, a student representative on the LSC. “Taft is not a school that should be associated with a prison.”

Heather Cherone says the decision was unanimous:

Sabrina Veran, a junior, said not having to wear a uniform would make her more likely to follow other school rules.

“I will have more respect for the security guards because they no longer have to chase kids down the hall about what they are wearing,” Veran said.

Kevin Cole, a senior, said everyone at Taft seems so much happier since Principal Mark Grishaber suspended the uniform dress code during the first two weeks of school after being besieged with complaints from parents and students.

While the LSC debated specifically banning items such as leggings and yoga pants, it adopted a more general dress code at Grishaber's recommendation that simply requires "appropriate" pants — including sweatpants, jeans, leggings, yoga pants and athletic pants. But pants must not "sag," according to the code.

Skirts and shorts must be at least knee-length. Shoes must be closed-toe, and sandals are not allowed, according to the dress code. Clothes must not be see-through.

Shirts must have sleeves and cover a student's midriff.

Taft teachers and staff will judge on a case-by-case basis whether a student has violated the dress code, the LSC decided. 

LSC Chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said officials would re-evaluate the dress code in a month to ensure no problems had developed.

Having to wear a uniform made Taft students feel like they were already guilty of something, which led to more aggressive behavior and outbursts, Mach said.

Lifting the uniform dress code will lead to more mature behavior from the students, said Matt Mach, a senior and one of the student representatives on the LSC.

The uniform code was imposed when Taft was struggling with gang conflicts. Students and school officials have said those concerns are no longer relevant.

Jasper Oliver, a senior, started a petition against the dress code last year that garnered 1,000 signatures in two weeks.

“I wanted to see if I could make a difference,” Oliver said, smiling broadly. "It feels like a weight has been lifted."

A survey at the beginning of the year found that 81 percent of more than 2,500 parents, teachers and students favored modifying the dress code or eliminating it entirely.

The town hall turned into a pep rally for Taft, which has a new administration and a recently completed $17 million renovation.

"We are a changed student body," Mach said. "This is a new Taft."

Grishaber, who has been principal of Taft since July, has said he plans to turn Taft into one of the city's best schools and to improve its less-than-stellar reputation.

Cole said scrapping the uniform would go a long away toward changing the culture at Taft and making it one of the city's best schools.

"We're going to get Taft up there with Lane [Technical High School] and Whitney Young [High School]," Cole said. 

For more Northwest Side news from Heather Cherone, listen here: