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​​Peoria Public Schools revising dress code, Kherat 'hopeful' going into union mediation

Mike Rundle

Peoria Public Schools is considering revisions to its dress code policy.

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, board member Dr. Anni Reinking presented findings from a survey spearheaded by the Parent Teacher Action Committee. Of 303 survey respondents, 68% approved of the updated policy which includes more inclusive language regarding garments that can be worn by students.

Reinking opened the presentation by sharing an email from a student who felt they had been impacted by the current dress code.

In the email, which Reinking edited for clarity, the unnamed student wrote that they are in the process of a gender transition and were made to feel uncomfortable by building staff when wearing a gender-affirming garment.

“The student also said, ‘When I was confronted with this exact situation, it made me feel humiliated and ashamed of who I am,’” said Reinking. “This is not just a race and ethnicity issue, this is not just a biological female and male issue, but it’s also an issue for the LGBTQIA community, so there’s lots of student demographics that potentially could be impacted…by the dress code that is currently in place.”

Reinking also referenced a study by NPR concluding that dress code regulations are often more restrictive toward women. In terms of this PTAC study, Reinking reported that 160 of 303 respondents submitted comments with “sexualized language.”

“63% of the comments [in the survey] focused on the female body, and only 1.8% of the comments referred to men and boys,” said Reinking.

Other provisions in the updated policy allow for students to wear hooded sweatshirts, pajamas, and ripped jeans. The updated dress code has been given to the Board Policy Committee for consideration.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat shared that administration and representatives from the Peoria Federation of Teachers would be meeting with a neutral mediator today, August 23. The current school year began with union teachers working without a contract.

“We are all hopeful that a resolution will be reached that will benefit both the staff and the students of Peoria Public Schools,” said Kherat. “It may take multiple meetings, but I just wanted to give the public an update, and our staff an update as well.”

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Mike Rundle is a correspondent at WCBU. He joined the station in 2020.