Glenbard offers muted response to dress code controversy

Faced with a social media firestorm over its response to dress code violations on the first day of classes Wednesday at Glenbard East High School, District 87 officials refused to answer specific questions Friday and instead issued a general statement trying to explain what happened.

The controversy erupted when some parents complained their daughters were "shamed" for wearing clothes - including tank tops and other items that revealed bare shoulders - that violated the Lombard school's dress code.

Some parents also said their daughters were made to wear bright-orange T-shirts handed out by the school if they didn't have other clothing available. Others complained that boys who wore sleeveless shirts were not made to change.

District community relations coordinator Peg Mannion issued a statement late Friday afternoon, in response to questions sent by the Daily Herald, that said the administration and staff at Glenbard East "addressed dress code violations" this week.

She did not say how many students were involved or directly answer many other questions.

"The expectations for dress code were explained and options (such as correcting the concern, wearing other clothes if the student had some, borrowing T-shirts and/or calling parents/guardians) were provided to students. A variety of T-shirts were available for students (in various colors) and the students were asked to return the shirts at the end of the day. Male and female students were addressed and offered the same options throughout the day.

"The rules around dress code are intended to support a positive teaching and learning environment. The staff and administration work hard to share expectations and support student success around academic performance and other areas (such as dress code).

"Some parents/guardians have contacted the school directly to voice support, ask questions and relay their concerns. These conversations are productive and collaborative and we are grateful for the opportunities. We encourage these continued conversations and ask that the contributions to social media pages (on this topic) remain fact-based and avoid inappropriate statements about individuals or the events at Glenbard East."

Mannion, Superintendent David Larson and Principal Shahe Bagdasarian either declined or did not respond to requests to speak to Daily Herald reporters.

Among the unanswered questions were how many students were asked to change their attire; why the clothing was deemed "disruptive," a standard listed in the school's dress code; whether students must acknowledge reading their handbooks, which contain the rules about not showing bare shoulders or midriffs; whether this will affect cheerleaders' abilities to wear their sleeveless uniforms to school on game days; whether there were similar cases at the district's other three schools; and how the district responded to some social media criticism that the dress code is sexist, discriminatory and contributes to body-shaming and a culture of blaming women for others' reactions to what they wear.

The four District 87 schools' have separate student handbooks. Those for East and South specifically ban clothing that shows bare midriffs and bare shoulders (South banned them in 1996, according to a Daily Herald article).

Glenbard West only says it prohibits "any items which constitute a threat to the safety or health of self or others, references alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or violence, is offensive by the wording or design, or suggestive of a double meaning and/or is gang related in any form or manner is prohibited."

Glenbard North also has a one-paragraph policy, stating 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."

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