Jeans, hoodies back in style in Danville schools

Jeans, hoodies back in style in Danville schools

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DANVILLE — They're staples in every kids' wardrobe — jeans and hoodies.

And now, for the first time in four years, Danville school district students can wear them to school.

School board members on Wednesday voted 4-2, with Thomas Miller absent, to adopt a new dress code that does away with the controversial "uniform standard of dress" policy, requiring K-12 students to wear polo or dress shirts and khakis or solid-color dress pants, skirts or shorts.

The "new" policy, which is almost identical to the 2013-14 dress code, takes effect immediately and is available at http://www.danville.k12.il.us.

"I do think we need to dress for success," said board member Lon Henderson, who hopes students continue wearing their previously required outfits.

But he, along with board member Shannon Schroeder, proposed going back to the old dress code because "we just didn't have the parental support."

"The parents have to buy into it and support it," said Henderson, who approved the change along with Schroeder, Randal Ashton and board President Bill Dobbles. "When that doesn't happen, it takes an inordinate amount of time by our staff to enforce it. ... We've had this several years now, and we continue to have multiple infractions and students who have to leave the classroom to change clothes. The dress code "is important. But I think it's time to concentrate on our instruction and curriculum and other things that need to be addressed."

The new policy generally lists what clothing is not allowed, including tank, halter, spaghetti strap and strapless tops or dresses; low-cut or cut-off tops that expose the midriff; clothing made from leather, mesh, nylon, vinyl, spandex or see-through material; yoga, flannel and fleece pants or leggings that are worn as pants; dress or grooming that promotes drug or alcohol use, violence, gang affiliation or any hate speech; and hats, flip flops and house slippers.

While jeans are allowed, they cannot be ripped or torn. And students wearing hoodies must leave their hood down.

It is standard policy for most high schools in the state, Dobbles said. While more relaxed, "we will expect students to follow it and dress appropriately," he added.

The "uniform" dress code was implemented at the start of the 2014-15 school year in an effort to improve school climate and allow students to focus on academics rather than what they were wearing. The policy banned blue jeans, hoodies, winter coats in the classroom and, until this past year, a commercially-produced school T-shirt, along with the usual forbidden attire such as spandex, pajamas and hats.

In following years, the policy was revised to make it easier to enforce and to give high school students more freedom.

Parents continued to voice concerns that "uniforms" were a financial burden, while staff said the time they spent dealing with violations took away from instruction time — and hurt their efforts in trying to build relationships with students.

Those concerns and others were further brought to light in a survey of about 3,400 school staff, parents and students in grades 5 through 12, taken in March. The results, presented two weeks ago, showed that most respondents weren't satisfied with the current policy and don't believe it's had a positive impact on student behavior or achievement.

"It was pretty evident ... they were looking for something different," Henderson said.

"As I said at the last meeting, we will always have a dress code," he said. "I think this will be easier to enforce."

But board member Darlene Halloran said the previous policy also caused problems, including leaving "too much interpretation for what was appropriate ... and creates an environment of inequity of those who have and those who do not."

Halloran, who voted against the new policy along with Gladys Davis, went on to say she believed the uniform policy was doomed to fail because it wasn't supported from the top down. Instead, she said, the policy was "watered down" each year.

"The message we clearly send is, 'If you don't like the rules, don't follow them.'"

Ashton argued that the district gave the uniform policy a good try. But the positive effects supporters had hoped to see didn't happen.

"It was fraught with problems," he said.

Makenzie Heeren, a Danville High School student, said she's excited about the change. While the uniform policy did help with bullying "in a way," it didn't allow students to express themselves.

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