District 300: Cheerleaders' skirts are too short for school
Chearleaders can't wear uniforms in school on game days
How short is too short for skirts high school students wear?
It's a question some Community Unit District 300 parents are debating on Facebook after controversy erupted over the Algonquin-based district restricting high school cheerleaders from being able to wear their uniforms to classes on game day Fridays.
"The competition cheer outfits are not compliant with our dress code," Superintendent Fred Heid said. "They are not long enough. The cheerleading uniforms are intended to allow them to compete. They are not intended to be allowed as daily wear."
Heid said boys are not allowed to wear their wrestling singlets to classes, nor can students walk around in swimsuits and basketball/volleyball shorts worn for competition in school.
He said the district's high schools -- Dundee-Crown in Carpentersville, Hampshire, and Jacobs in Algonquin -- merely are enforcing the existing dress code requiring skirts to be long enough to reach the mid-thigh or so the bottom touches students' fingertips when their arms are by their sides -- a common rule in many school districts.
School districts long have used dress codes to eradicate gang and pop culture influences that are negative.
Many parents in two Facebook groups have been complaining that the girls should be allowed to show their school spirit, while district officials say the uniforms are showing a bit too much.
Several of those parents reached on Facebook declined being interviewed for this story.
Parents' comments online ranged from being appalled at the district's move to saying that perhaps the cheerleading uniforms needed to be more "appropriate."
Heid said there's nothing wrong with the current cheerleading uniforms because they serve a purpose.
"It's very appropriate for the function when they are actually performing their sport," he said. "They allow them the movement. They already have bloomers that go with their cheer costumes. Wearing your uniform during active competition is not what is being debated. It's just not appropriate for school because it doesn't meet our code."
Complaints from non-cheerleading parents whose daughters' skirt lengths got them into trouble with teachers prompted the schools to crack down on anyone wearing shorts, skirts and other attire deemed to be too short.
"We don't want to create a system that is inequitable," Heid said, adding that unlike other districts that have banned leggings and shoulder straps, "we didn't want to ban the cheerleading uniforms. Dress code should be a conversation. You have to get the kid to understand why."
As a compromise, officials have decided cheerleaders will be allowed to wear their uniforms on game days, if they wear leggings or bike shorts underneath, or they can wear warm-ups and other spirit attire instead.
Heid said parents have been relatively supportive of these solutions.
"I don't want dress code to define our district, but it's one of our policies," he said. "If we wanted to have a rigid dress code, we could. There is a national conversation happening right now, does the dress code somehow reinforce a gender bias? That's not why the dress code exists, because boys can't control themselves. We want girls to have positive self-esteem and positive self-image. We want them focused on teaching and learning and not focused on what everyone's wearing."
Heid said schools are preparing students for college and future careers and stressed some of the clothing they were wearing in school would never fly in a professional environment.
Parents also play a big part in ensuring their students comply with the rules, he said.
"It shouldn't just fall to us to have to police it," Heid said. "It really should be a bigger conversation. The academic environment is a professional learning environment and as such our students should reflect that image."