Morton High School District 201 approved its new uniform policy last week, making the code more restrictive than originally planned.
The high school originally planned a looser dress code that allowed students to wear maroon, green or white polo shirts, oxfords or turtlenecks. However, the policy approved last week specified that only long- and short-sleeved white polos embroidered with a Morton High School logo would be allowed. With the polos, students would be permitted to wear flat front or pleated khaki pants, capris, shorts or skirts and white, black or brown closed-toe shoes, including gym shoes.
Embroidered polos cost $11, while the plain shirts would have cost about $8, said district spokesman Dan Proft. While the shirts in the original policy could be purchased anywhere, the embroidered polos will be available only through the schools and several community vendors.
“The specifications in this policy are way too narrow and do not properly consider the economic conditions many families find themselves in or the self esteem of some adolescents,” said Morton parent Mary Forston of Stickney. “And, quite frankly, requiring white shirts just does not seem very practical.”
District officials have said the uniform will improve school safety by making those who do not belong in the schools more apparent to administrators.
“They wanted to go with the straight white polo shirts because they felt that was more distinctive and identifiable as a uniform,” Proft said. “The real issue is making sure the polos are universally affordable.”
Two-thirds of students at Morton East and nearly half the students at Morton West receive free or reduced lunches — figures the district said are indicative of the number of students who would require financial help in purchasing the uniforms. Proft said discussion on ways to make the polos affordable were ongoing, whether it be to provide free polos to those in need, offset costs or implement some other solution.
“It’s an issue that’s generated further discussion, and questions have been raised about affordability,” Proft said. “The logo shirts will be more expensive ... and the question becomes, ‘Are we raising the bar too high with these uniforms? And if so, is there something we can do for families who have demonstrable need, for whom it would not be affordable?’”
Morton parent and Berwyn resident Susan Clark said she knew parents who had already purchased colored shirts, which would no longer be permitted under the amended dress code. She said she’d rather have district funds going toward her children’s education than to support purchasing the uniforms.
“I would rather my tax money go to buy a computer or a textbook or add an hour onto the school day,” Clark said. “(I wonder) what else our kids are going to lose because (the district) is buying these white polos.”