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Carbondale Community High School to rework dress code after student outcry

CARBONDALE — Carbondale Community High School plans to revise its school dress code in response to complaints that the policies are unclear and disproportionately target female students.

The recent criticism coincides with a growing national movement against school attire rules, which activists say tend to body-shame young women.

Kylie Measimer and Amber-Rose Moore, both juniors at the high school, shared their frustrations over the dress code during a public-comment period at the Oct. 19 school board meeting.

Measimer, 17, was pulled out of class because of her attire twice over the course of two days earlier this year. She said she never intends to break the dress code.

“If the goal of the dress code is to maintain a school environment, to keep people learning, for one, you shouldn’t be removing people from class to do that,” Measimer said during a recent phone interview. “They don’t remove people who talk or text in class — they just tell them not to do that.”

If a student is believed to be in violation of the dress code, a teacher talks with him or her one-on-one about finding a change of clothes. Students are given two warnings every semester and are assigned detention the third time they break the dress code.

Some of the prohibited items in the current CCHS dress code include: any shirt that exposes the brassiere; rips in jeans that are higher than two inches above the knee; and leggings, yoga or running pants that aren’t worn under a skirt, a dress or shorts. Shorts, dresses and skirts must be mid-thigh in length. Also prohibited are clothing items that display or promote sexual innuendo, gang affiliation and derogatory writing or logos.

Moore, 16, has been “dress-coded” four times in her three years at the school — three times for wearing leggings and once for having holes in her pants.

“When I’m being told that a hole in my pants is more important than me going to class and getting my education, it’s kind of making me question, what is their actual purpose in having this dress code?” she said in a phone interview.

Moore said she doesn’t feel the dress code is sexist as written, but she believes the way it is being enforced is problematic.

“If a girl is showing a bra strap or the band of her underwear is showing, she’ll be sent to the office … but if a male is sagging, he’ll just be told to pull his pants up,” Moore said.

Measimer said being called out of class and singled out in front of one’s peers is “upsetting.”

“It’s just humiliating, you know, to be told you’re not dressed right. No matter how much you sugarcoat it, it really makes you feel like your body is wrong, what you have on is wrong, whether or not it really is,” she said.

Moore said she wanted to take a stand against the dress code when she noticed that the policies were making some of her female peers feel bad about themselves.

“I see them when they get dress-coded, walking down the hall to the principal’s office. Everybody’s looking at you. They know what happened, and that definitely does not feel good,” Moore said.

CCHS Superintendent Steve Murphy said the goal of the dress code is not to minimize distractions for male students.

“I’m not here, and the administration’s not here, to enforce any type of morality and to push anything on people about what they should wear or shouldn’t wear, and I’ll say this: in this district, it’s not up to the girls to control the behavior of the boys in the district. The behavior of the boys is their responsibility,” Murphy said.

CCHS Principal Daniel Booth said the recent problems with the dress code stem from changes that were made last year.

“Last year we had a parent say that they were having problems finding clothes that met the dress code, so they wanted us to look at it to see if there was any way we could change it. Which was not a bad idea, because I don’t think the dress code had had a massive review since I’ve been here as principal, and that was my sixth year as principal last year,” Booth said.

The Parent Advisory Committee, which consists of three to five parents representing each class, and the Student Advisory Committee, which is made up of the school’s elected class officers, were tasked with recommending the revisions. The minimum length of skirts, shorts and dresses — previously two inches above the knee — was changed to “mid-thigh.”

“Then the question is, ‘Well, where is mid-thigh?’ As an administrator, our goal is to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard and we land in a fair spot, but then, when you get to a place of being so subjective, is it really a fair spot when mid-thigh could be a different place for everybody when they’re leaving the house? … It was a good try, but I think we missed the mark on it,” Booth said.

Throughout the review of the dress code last year, the committees compared CCHS’s policies to nearby schools of comparable size.

“We are a more progressive district than some other schools, and we are more diverse than every other school in Southern Illinois, so we have more things to consider, just with our population,” Booth said.

Lack of clarity among administrators who enforce the policies makes things frustrating, according to Moore. She said two administrators gave her different definitions of “mid-thigh”: one was measuring from the hip and one was measuring from the pelvic bone.

“I think the fact that the dress code is so gray-area, it makes it harder on the administrators. I don’t blame them, they’re doing their job. They are trying to enforce it the way that it’s written, but the way that it’s written in the rule book is hard for everyone to follow,” Moore said.

Murphy said the next step will be gathering feedback from students and parents in order to implement new changes to the dress code next year.

“Some of that gray area caused us some problems, so we’re just going back to the drawing board again with the parents and students and looking for a workable policy,” Murphy said. “There was some ridiculous misinformation out there on social media, that we were suspending kids out of school and everything else. That’s just not the case. We made some changes in response to parents and students, and it seems like it didn’t quite work out like we thought, so we’re just going to get some feedback and make some more changes.”

The Parent Advisory Committee will begin reviewing the policy at its next meeting on Tuesday.

“I want to make sure that our students feel heard, I want to make sure that our parents feel heard, I want to make sure they have a voice in the process and I want them to understand that we value their voice, and that this is not like the Ten Commandments. … This is not a situation where the administration has said, this is what it’s gonna be and you just need to comply with it. So we’re open to continuing the conversation and finding the right spot,” Booth said.

Booth said he encouraged Moore and Measimer to attend the Oct. 19 board meeting to voice their opinions constructively.

“The other thing that I want to make sure that we’re always doing is that we’re teaching our students to advocate in the appropriate way. The answer to not liking the dress code is not to disobey it, it’s to help find solutions,” Booth said.

Hits from Trump, Dems put Sessions in familiar hot seat

WASHINGTON — The nation's chief law enforcement officer found himself in a familiar spot Friday: belittled by the president, pressured to investigate political opponents and sucked back into the center of the storm around the investigation into the Trump administration's campaign ties to Russia.

In President Donald Trump's Cabinet, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be perpetually in the hot seat, yet he has made clear he's not going anywhere. In an administration where top aides serve at the president's displeasure, the former Alabama senator has shown he is more than willing to absorb the blows.

Trump paused to hit Sessions with yet another indignity just before he left the White House for a 12-day Asia trip increasingly colored by his domestic political troubles. Asked if he would fire the attorney general if he doesn't investigate his Democratic political rivals, Trump said, "I don't know." He continued to vent his frustration with the top prosecutor.

"I'm not really involved with the Justice Department," he said. "I'd like to let it run itself. But honestly, they should be looking at Democrats. ... They should be looking at a lot of things, and a lot of people are disappointed with the Justice Department, including me."

Two White House officials quickly cautioned against reading too much into Trump's comments, reiterating that he has no plans to fire Sessions. And although the White House maintains that Trump's tweets are "official record," it says Trump has not ordered Sessions or the FBI to do anything related to Democrats.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller estimates his prosecutors will need three weeks to present their case against ex-Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to a jury, according to a court filing made public Friday.

Responding to a federal judge in Washington, Mueller prosecutor Kyle Freeny wrote that the government will likely need 15 trial days to present evidence supporting a 12-count indictment unsealed earlier this week alleging violations of federal money laundering, banking and foreign lobbying laws.

Manafort, who served for five months as Trump's campaign chairman, and his former deputy Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Both men were released on multimillion-dollar bonds but placed on house arrest. Manafort has asked a judge to ease the terms of his pretrial confinement, calling Mueller's case "embellished," in court papers filed this week.

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, said he expects to file pre-trial motions to suppress evidence "improperly obtained by search warrant, subpoena or otherwise" by Mueller's investigators, a court filing Friday shows. Manafort's Virginia home was raided in July by FBI agents.

On Friday, Trump issued a flurry of tweets over a three-hour span urging the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee over a joint fundraising agreement they signed in August 2015.

Trump's accusations follow publication by Politico of an excerpt from former acting DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile's upcoming book. Brazile alleges she found "proof" that the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged in Clinton's favor.

"Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems..." Trump tweeted.

The aides said the tweets were a media savvy way to deflect attention from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about his dealings with Russians who were offering "dirt" on Clinton.

Sessions has become a scapegoat for Trump's anger, allowing the president to avoid some of the political consequences of directly attacking the special counsel.

But the president's lashing was another blow to the attorney general, who could be called back to Congress to explain why he said earlier this year he was unaware of information exchanges between Trump's campaign and intermediaries for the Russian government.

Papadopoulos admitted he told Sessions at a meeting he had made contacts with Russians who said they could set up a meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin. Sessions quickly dismissed the idea and said he'd prefer no one ever speak about it, according to one person who was there, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share the private conversation.

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are now asking Sessions to follow up.

"This is another example in an alarming pattern in which you, the nation's top law enforcement officer, apparently failed to tell the truth, under oath, about the Trump team's contacts with agents of Russia — a hostile foreign power that interfered in the 2016 election," Sen. Al Franken wrote in a letter to Sessions.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal also asked Sessions to return to the panel to clarify his comments.

A person close to Sessions said Papadopoulos' comments during the March meeting did not leave a lasting impression on the then-senator, who quickly dismissed them and moved on. The person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and did so on condition of anonymity, said Sessions does not recall any further interactions with Papadopoulos.

Review board votes against creation of Cambria TIF

CAMBRIA — A review board made up of taxing bodies that could be affected by the proposed Tax Increment Financing District in Cambria voted against the proposal Friday.

The purpose of a board of review is to allow representatives from the taxing bodies affected by a TIF District to weigh in on creating a proposed TIF. Any action taken by the board is advisory. 

The board of review for the proposed Cambria TIF District met at noon Friday.

Those attending on Friday included Carterville Community Unit District 5 Superintendent Keith Liddell; Kurt Schroeder, the school district’s TIF attorney; Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry; Nic Nelson, the village of Cambria’s TIF attorney; Cambria Village President Steve Gottschalk; Cambria Village Board member Zach Cox; Stacy Buckingham of John A. Logan College; Mary Stoner, director of Anne West Lindsey District Library; and Jim Kunce, president of Anne West Lindsey Library board.

After Gottschalk called the meeting to order, Liddell made a motion to disapprove the proposed TIF District in Cambria. Gentry seconded the motion.

“I agree 100 percent with Keith’s motion,” Gentry said.

He went on to explain the county gets hit more every year with reductions from the state of Illinois. The County Board is working on creating new funding and cannot support a residential TIF district, he said.

“John A. Logan College generally supports commercial development, but the residential portion concerns us,” Buckingham said.

Liddell, Gentry, Buckingham and Kunce voted in favor of the motion. Gottschalk and Cox did not vote. The motion passed.

“The village did not take part in the vote because they did not recognize the vote,” Nelson said.

Nelson explained that the TIF act sets the time frame during which taxing bodies must submit written objections. It is 30 days. The board of review first met Sept. 26. Objections would have to be submitted in writing by Oct. 26.

Liddell said the school district received its intergovernmental agreement at 2 p.m. Friday. The school board met Monday.

When asked what taxing bodies have an agreement, Nelson said the village is not pursuing any further agreements at this time.

Cambria officials say creation of a TIF District that includes both residential and commercial property is essential.

“I feel like the citizens voted me onto the board to do what’s best for Cambria. It (the TIF) is a way to revitalize the town as a whole,” Cox said.

Cox does not drink, but he voted in favor of package liquor sales in the village to help draw businesses.

“We have to have something to draw business,” Cox said.

After the ordinance passed in April, Casey’s General Store contacted the village and is building a new convenience store.

Gottschalk remembers a time when the small village had three gas stations, a pool hall, store and restaurant. He said the TIF will help draw business and give the village the money to fix aging infrastructure and keep village vehicles running.

“The other aspect is, we’ll get new homes where there are homes that are no longer livable,” Gottschalk said.

The board will vote on the proposed TIF District at 4 p.m. Thursday in Cambria Community Building.