It’s going to be a long, long school year for King College Prep principal Melanie V. Beatty-Sevier.
School hasn’t even started yet, and parents already are lined up with complaints.
Beatty-Sevier is under fire for comments she made at a Local School Council meeting about changes to the dress code.
It isn’t the proposed changes that have angered parents. It’s the reasoning behind them.
When questioned by parents, Beatty-Sevier appeared to blame “provocative” attire for causing sexual assaults.
“There has been sexual abuse cases throughout the city of Chicago,,” the principal said. “These things are put in place to, why, why should we allow students to dress provocatively?”
An outraged parent recorded her comments and played them this past week at a Chicago Board of Education meeting.
These days, Beatty-Sevier’s comments are considered outrageous because they imply that the way a young lady dresses could make her a target for sexual assault.
But back in the day, a girl walking around with her butt cheeks hanging out was said to be looking for trouble.
Apparently, this young principal is a woman who was raised in a home that espoused a lot of old-fashioned ideas.
“Is that the new protocol that we are blaming the young ladies for what is happening?” asked King parent Cassandra Bogan at the recent school board meeting.
Obviously, the way a young woman dresses at school is no excuse for a teacher or school employee molesting that student.
But I pity the parent who tries to make a case for modesty in today’s culture.
It really is a losing battle.
When I was in high school — OK, it was ages ago — some girls would leave home wearing sanctioned clothes and then change into forbidden attire in the school bathroom.
Now, teens pretty much get to wear whatever they choose.
Apparently, Alameda Unified School District in northern California gave up on trying to regulate what students wear. That district’s new dress code says students must wear “bottoms, tops, shoes and clothing that cover genitals, buttocks and areolae/nipples with opaque material. Students are even allowed to show up wearing pajamas,” USA Today reported.
CPS has weighed in on the side of King’s outraged parents.
“The district strongly disagrees with Principal Beatty-Sevier’s comments, and we are evaluating appropriate disciplinary options,” says CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton. “Supporting students must be the first priority of every principal, teacher and staff member,and comments like these do not align with the district’s values or approach to supporting and protecting students.”
It isn’t clear what exactly Beatty-Sevier wanted to change about King’s dress code, but CPS schools get to set their own dress codes, subject to district guidelines.
For instance, the dress code for Lincoln Park High School says students “should dress in a manner that is not disruptive to the learning environment and that does not endanger their safety or that of others.”
Banned attire there includes: tank tops, tube tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tops that show any midriff or are off-the-shoulder or have plunging necklines, open shirts showing bare skin and excessively tight clothing.
Lincoln Park also outlaws shorts or skirts that are shorter than mid-thigh. Males cannot wear pants that are sagging and show underwear.
Beatty-Sevier would have fared better had she proposed the changes to King’s dress code without mentioning “sexual assault.”
CPS is on high alert after failing to protect students against sexual predators in the past. Unfortunately, that means some teachers and principals are likely to be unfairly swept up in all of this.
I get what Beatty-Sevier was trying to say, though she said it poorly.
But is this uproar really about clothing?
Last April, tensions were running high at King over the decision to not renew the contract of principal David Narain. His supporters circulated a petition online at change.org to keep him. Beatty-Sevier, former principal of now-shuttered Robeson High School in Englewood, was one of three finalists for the job.
Because of the backlash over this principal’s comments, CPS is now also investigating other complaints parents have.
Here’s hoping these concerns get cleared up quickly.
After a contentious principal-selection process, King students deserve a stable and peaceful school environment.