No budging on dress code at St. Thomas More


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CHAMPAIGN — A revised school dress code, designed to "ensure modesty," has one St. Thomas More mom leading the charge to overturn it before classes start in 11 days.

The online petition Laura Schmitt started in protest of the new policy — which requires girls to have on opaque leggings, tights or panty hose if they choose to wear a skirt to school — had nearly 400 signatures of support when it was delivered to Principal Ryan Bustle.

"Everyone from students, parents and alumni to brothers and sisters of girls at the school," Schmitt said. "It shows we have a strong community of people who care about St. Thomas More."

Bustle confirmed this week that he had received the petition — and was glad the STM community has such a strong group of parents and alumni who care about students — but "ultimately, we will continue on with what we have in place for the upcoming school year."

Changes to the dress code were made by the principal and the rest of the administrative team after conducting an "entire year of ongoing research," Bustle said.

"We understand this is a hot topic and we anticipated it not being the most popular decision, but we felt it was best for the St. Thomas More community. Modesty is part of our image and part of how we want to represent ourselves to the community," he said. "We want to uphold those values."

But Schmitt and other detractors question why the school is implementing changes to the dress code now, 15 years after the Catholic school opened. They also wonder why the need to replace a longstanding socks-with-skirt policy with nylons, pointing out in a five-pronged petition:

— "Nylons in warm weather are extremely uncomfortable."

— "Since it opened, STM has allowed girls to wear socks with their skirts. This was reasonable and the girls were comfortable with this."

According to the 2015-16 student handbook, the tights worn under a girl's skirt must be either black, white, navy or gray. If a female student wears leggings, she now must also wear socks "that fully cover the legs."

— "Wearing socks with skirts is the same policy that the other Catholic schools in Champaign follow."

— "If the girls have to wear nylons or tights for PE, it will take them longer to change, not to mention it will cost the parents more money as they have to constantly replace nylons that have tears or runs. We already have had to spend money purchasing new skirts, so adding even more expense is unfair."

The new dress code also requires families to purchase nearly all school uniform clothing from the C&A Inspirations Catholic store on Mattis Ave. in Champaign.

— "No one wears nylons anymore, so why would we require our girls to wear them?"

As of this week, administrators had not responded to the petition but Schmitt held out hope, saying: "I am confident that (Mr. Bustle) and the STM administration will hear us and return to a socks-with-skirt policy."