A more open OPRF

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Oak Park and River Forest High School continues to ramp up its efforts to provide a more welcoming and inclusive school to the full range of its students. In just the past several days we have seen interesting initiatives on multiple fronts. 

The school board last week adopted recommendations from an ad hoc gender equity committee that will extend full protections and support for transgender students, gender-nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender identity. These are issues that in other communities foster rage and division. But in our villages, with values of inclusion that we have discerned and nurtured over decades, the changes are simply the next step in recognition of differences as our basis of strength and purpose.

The new policy addresses issues of restroom and locker room use, overnight school trips, the use of names and pronouns. And it puts in place specific support services for students and families to access. 

Meanwhile, the school board is considering proposed easing of the school's dress code. The goal is to ease tension over enforcement of aspects of the code that appear to focus on black students. Specifically, the ban on hoodies and hats would be removed. Nathaniel Rouse, the principal, said that concerns from earlier years that clothing choices were a method of signaling gang involvement have receded and the residue is angst over hard-to-enforce restrictions on clothing choices popular with some students.

OPRF is not alone among area high schools actively rethinking their dress codes. The Journal's sister paper in Forest Park has reported on student-led proposals to eliminate uniforms in the Proviso Township high schools. Rouse pointed to dress code changes at Evanston Township High School, a district OPRF frequently observes.

Also under consideration is the curtailing of the requirement that all students, at all moments of the day must hang their ID about their necks. While implemented in the interests of school security a number of years ago, listen to students and you hear endless agitation over their perception that the school feels as if it is on permanent lockdown. 

We're supportive of these thoughtful efforts to improve the learning and living climate within our high school. The administration, staff, students, volunteers and the board are to be thanked for understanding that the learning environment hinges on students feeling respected and on being held accountable for things that matter. 

Reader Comments

23 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 12th, 2018 2:59 PM

Well Tom, I was wondering when and if someone would pull out the trusty ole race card - in effect shutting down any meaningful discussion. Guess I don't have to wonder anymore. Sad.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 12th, 2018 1:48 PM

Let's all thank Tom for showing us his true racist nature. Have you ever worn a sweatshirt and a hat before? Are you a gang banger? I wear sweatshirts all the time. Do I look like a gang banger? The only reason to equate wearing these crazy gangbanger clothes is because you mental image is a bunch of scary black kids wearing them. Every single day I see perfectly nice people wearing these things and for some reason nobody seems to care. I wonder why that is????

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2018 11:04 AM

In Jason world the people paying the property taxes to fund OPRF have absolutely nothing to do with OPRF. We need so actual people, whatever that is, because actual people let you dress like a bum or gang banger and call it inclusion.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 6th, 2018 8:23 AM

The good news is that nobody really cares what anyone that posts here thinks which is as it should be. The actual people that spend day in and day out at the school looked at this policy and decided it was fine. Now they can move on to other things while the people here argue about this. Sweatshirts and hats will be the end of days I am sure.

Marty Bracco  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 5:01 PM

Jason, with all due respect, anyone who either owns or rents a home in OP very much has something to do with OPRF, whether they have kids in the school or not. The taxpayers of OP and RF are the customers here, and each and every one of their opinions and insights on how the school is run or should be run is valuable. From my personal perspective, as a 30 year taxpayer and parent of a recent OPRF grad (as well as a Fenwick grad), the "happiness' of the admin & students isn't important. The quality of education and preparation of the students to be productive, contributing members of society is important. Everyone who chooses to live here has perspective to share about the school. Personally, I'd love to see a simple, Fenwick-like dress code at OPRF. It would eliminate many superfluous issues and allow a focus on learning, not the latest fashion trends. Of course, this would never happen at OPRF, but that doesn't mean it's shouldn't. And my lawn is open to anyone, as long as you pick up after yourselves (and your pets!).

Alex Garcia  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 1:57 PM

Mike: You're the one who raised "Marxism" explicitly here, but either way, me thinks thou doth protest too much. Also, I know "de-platforming" opposing viewpoints is all the rage right now on the hard left, but your attempt to reduce others' views as "pseudo-intellectualism" is simply tacky and unoriginal. Happy to compare advanced degrees in this or that, if that's your kind of thing.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 12:58 PM

No worries, Alex. Your pseudo-intellectual commentary and labels don't bother me in the least. It's just that your alarmist propensity for shouting "Marxist!" in just about every one of your WJ posts concerning LOCAL politics detracts from whatever point you're trying to make (assuming you even have one beyond despising liberalism)...

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 12:55 PM

Jeffrey....Your comment is laughable and delusional. Nowhere did I state I was not in favor of equity. Also, the comment " our government separating children from their parents at the borders, an assault on the rule of law from the president, or trade policies that could trigger a depression" is from left field since there is no mention of that in the comments or the article. Evidently, you need to make things up to make yourself feel good. Rather pathetic Jeffrey. Now if you want to have a dialogue and speak with each other like mature adults, count me in.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 12:47 PM

Kevin....Thank you very much for your comments. Perhaps others who have commented here could open their eyes and begin to look at people NOT like them as individuals instead of collectively. Unfortunately, in today's climate, identity politics has seem to take center stage.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 12:43 PM

Jason....You think this is about being "happy"? Not sure why you think my "sense of right and wrong" has been violated. Nowhere was that stated. You seem to really enjoy making things up about people based on a few sentences. I'm not sure where you work, but would you let the interns decide company policy on dress code to make them "happy"? I'm guessing you wouldn't, but I could be wrong. Anyways, let's give everyone a trophy and make sure they are all happy and feel good while Mr. Cohen giggles in the corner like a little girl.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 11:51 AM

Oh, Mike, so sorry. Should have properly characterized your political, economic and cultural tenets as "progressive" or "Democratic Socialist". There. Better?

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 11:25 AM

as I understood the reasoning behind the dress code changes, part of it was due to INEQUITABLE enforcement of the "no hat/hoodie" rule - - apparently the new rules allow hats "as long as the face is visible" - - that would seem to make enforcement more difficult and therefore less equitable. But hey, that's just my opinion.. Though I'll be curious to see what happens to the first student to show up in a sombrero!

Mike Hanline  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 11:23 AM

It's as if Alex read one book on Marxism and now can't stop talking about it: Hey, everybody! Look at me! You're a Marxist!!

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 11:09 AM

I live in the almost lily-white Mann School District, but by chance, I have Black neighbors directly left and right of me, and across the street. Two out three send their children to Grace Lutheran rather than Mann. When I asked one of those parents whether he'd want to serve on a finance committee at OPRFHS (he has an MBA from Northwestern Kellogg, and worked for a major consulting firm), he stated that he was thinking of sending his kids later to Fenwick, for the moral values. Of those Black parents, one has an MD and practices at the hospital of the top-rated med school in the area; another is a lawyer; one was a producer for nationally-syndicated and well-respected TV show that was based here; and one is a widow and empty-nester who is working on her Ph.D. These people would probably be horrified by the race to the bottom on the dress code at OPRF. This brings up the point as to whether there is THE Black Community (I emphasize the word "THE"), or multiple ones. These people are as individualized as any white people, and all have high standards for there children. To establish West-side underclass values at OPRF is demeaning to all concerned, and implies a patronizing attitude from the Administration and Board.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 9:47 AM

Don't worry, Jason. I'm sure that the WJ and OakPark.com will disable these comments sections soon enough. I mean, you can't have any expression or views that contravene the dogma of the People's Republic of Oak Park, can you?

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 6:55 AM

It's OP's favorite special right wing snowflakes that are always good for a laugh on here. The school seems happy with these policies. I am sure the kids are happy. Let's make sure the people that have absolutely nothing to do with OPRF and likely have never had kids there or at least haven't for a very long time are happy also. Let's care about the 7 people that always post on here that their sense of right and wrong has been violated by this horrible policy of inclusion. Get off my lawn!!!!

Alex Garcia  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 5:56 AM

Hi Jeff: No one other than a committed Oak Park leftist, or perhaps a Cuban regime spokesman, uses the term "reactionary". Have a great day.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: June 5th, 2018 2:24 AM

Reading the wailing of the usual chorus of Oak Park Victorian aunties wringing their reactionary hands over anything approaching equity and enlightenment in Oak Park is so much fun I sometimes wonder if the WJ is slipping these posters a couple of bucks a week to liven up the comments section. Not for these delicate flowers concern about our government separating children from their parents at the borders, an assault on the rule of law from the president, or trade policies that could trigger a depression - we must stop cleavage and torn jeans! It's enough to give a girl the vapors.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: June 4th, 2018 7:28 PM

According to the editors of OakPark.com, every school policy can be disposed of merely because it may run counter to a student's "feelings". Because, of course, "feelings" are paramount , right? Seriously, why does OPRF even go through the motions of being a high school anymore? It seems to be a mere assemblage of virtue signalers, social justice warriors, self-interested activists and feckless faculty.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 4th, 2018 11:49 AM

This is exactly why I am so glad I worked 1 full time and 2 part time jobs to send my daughters to parochial schools. Unfortunately, I still have to work the same jobs to pay my property tax bill to fund these crazy feel good social justice policies.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2018 9:32 AM

In crazy Wednesday Journal world, respect does not mean dressing for school like a person might who is going to work. Respect means forcing the world to accept that you can wear whatever you feel like. Keep it looking hot kids. Who needs IDs, let anyone in to wander the halls freely. School is such a source of agitation.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: May 30th, 2018 12:39 PM

I wonder if there would be any consequences for a male faculty/staff member who actually pointed out that a female student's nipples were visible? And would the nipple prohibition also apply to male students?

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: May 30th, 2018 11:11 AM

Has the WJ staff actually read the dress code proposed for next year? It allows for wearing pajamas in class(?!!). It also has no restrictions for cleavage as long as nipples aren't obvious, and for bare-midriff halter tops. Torn blue jeans are now the fashion rage, and those are OK Is this a school or a beach party? What legitimate need is being served here?

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