Categorized | News

Uniform policy is ‘absurd,’ students say

By Jessica Hernandez, Jasmine Milan, Iridian Lagunas, D’Angelo Wordlaw, Daysi Posadas, Erika Carrasco and Aaron Borda

The uniform policy is the major topic students have been talking about since the beginning of the year, and most of the talk has been negative.

After last year’s less demanding requirement, in which students could wear any Steinmetz-related shirt and pants of their choosing, the stricter policy came as a surprise. This year’s policy – khaki pants and a green uniform polo only – was announced on July 22 by robo-call and told to students at registration.

After nearly 10 weeks of school, students are still talking about it.

“Forcing students to wear this uniform is absurd,” senior Ethan Miranda said. (He and the other seniors, including the group pictured above, wore clothes of their choice for the their panoramic photo on Sept. 27, without incident.)

Ethan Miranda was told on Thursday, Nov. 3, the day after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, that he could not wear his Cubs shirt. "The uniform policy is absurd," he said.

Ethan Miranda was told on Thursday, Nov. 3, the day after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, that he could not wear his Cubs shirt. “The uniform policy is absurd,” he said. (Photo by Jesus Cortez.)

Students say they don’t like the uniform for the following reasons:

  • It’s costly to buy new shirts and pants.
  • Students prefer wearing clothes of their choice.
  • The pants get dirty easily; girls feel uncomfortable wearing them on their period.
  • The pants and shirts are uncomfortable and difficult to fit right.
  • Uniforms take away from self-expression and team/club pride.
  • Most public high schools no longer require uniforms.
  • Students had no say in the new policy.
  • It’s a distraction for teachers and staff to have to enforce it.

[In addition to our report on students’ reactions to wearing the uniform, the Star’s coverage of the changed policy includes several stories that investigate reasons why the policy was enacted, a comparison of north side high schools and results from a survey of Steinmetz students that the Star took during the month of October. Additional student reactions to the uniform may be found in testimonies from Crystal Roman, Christian Perez and Jesse Hernandez, who spoke at the Sept. 14 Local School Council (LSC) meeting.


Most students needed to spend money buying the uniform, especially the pants.

“Why make us buy pants when we already have some in our closet?” senior Leinaliz Miranda said.

Most students already owned several pairs of other pants.

“I only owned one pair of khakis before the change, and also I had gone jean shopping in the beginning of the summer for the sole purpose to have new pairs of jeans to wear around school, just to get the news a couple weeks later that we are unable to wear jeans,” senior Vanessa Tamayo said. “My friends and I were really annoyed, for we had to go shopping once again to buy khakis. I found that khakis were almost $10 more than a pair of jeans.”

Many sophomores, juniors and seniors had spent money on gray Steinmetz shirts and joggers in the past that now they are unable to wear.

Two weeks after wearing the new uniform, several students spoke about their frustrations at the September LSC meeting.

Two weeks after wearing the new uniform, several students spoke about the problems listed in this article at the Sept. 14 Local School Council meeting. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

“The old Steinmetz shirts are no longer any use to us and we spent a lot of money for them,” senior Jose Sevilla said.

“We are going to be out of school and all that money that we wasted on the uniform will not come back when we graduate,” senior Odaliz Renteria said. “If we use clothes that we have we could use them every day. It is a waste of money and hard for those who don’t have enough money.”

Clothes don’t fit or feel right

For many people, the uniform doesn’t fit right. It’s a challenge to find pants that fit and look as good as jeans.

“People struggle to find khakis that they can actually fit, such as me,” senior Ahmari Owens said.

Some people also don’t like the size and feel of the polo shirts, preferring t-shirts: “The polos are too big and uncomfy,” junior Jane Nero said.

Most people would prefer to wear clothes they like and that fit better.

“We as students need to feel comfortable to learn,” senior Izabella Kulik

When students only own a few pairs of pants and shirts, they have to do a lot of laundry: “The uniform is stupid and ugly,” Jane said. “Khakis cost a lot so some students can’t afford multiple pairs.”

Light colored pants are problematic

Emily Mercado spoke at the October 12 LSC meeting about how uncomfortable it is for girls to wear khaki pants when they're having their period.

Emily Mercado spoke at the October 12 LSC meeting about how uncomfortable it is for girls to wear khaki pants when they’re having their period. (Photo by Mauricio Huerta.)

Khaki pants are a light material, which can be dirtied easier and can be a hassle, especially when you are a girl and have to deal with a menstrual cycle.

It is hard to get a stain off something light such as khakis.

“We all have lunch and sometimes we just can’t avoid some stains of ketchup or any sauce, also chocolate milk,” Vanessa said. “Yes, it does leave a permanent stain and I have my khakis to prove it.”

Other students said ink stains show up more on khakis than on jeans.

Another reason girls don’t like wearing khakis is the possibility of bloodstains.

“We get our menstrual flow every month and if it’s heavy we have to be worried the whole entire day, checking if we aren’t stained,” senior Jennifer Cruz said. “It’s really frustrating and embarrassing for us.”

Many female students mentioned this worry.

“It has even lead me to think I’m better off not going to school for a few days each month to avoid this predicament,” Vanessa said.

Students are not allowed to express themselves

Many students told the Star that they wish they had more self-expression.

“The uniform policy eliminates my freedom of being able to express my personality,” sophomore Jay Ann Perez said. “I like wearing vibrant or neutral colors like bright yellow or maroon instead of boring green and beige khakis.”

While there was a requirement last year to wear a Steinmetz shirt, there was variety.

“The school lost its sense of originality,” Vanessa said. “Though before we had to wear uniform shirts, we were more free. Not everyone had the exact same clothes. It just feels like we are being held by the neck with this uniform thing and I like to be free; everyone likes to be free to express themselves.”

This year Steinmetz does not allow athletes and club members to wear their shirts.

“I was proud to be a student at Steinmetz,” senior Evelyn Antolino said. “I play soccer. When we got our shirts and jackets, I wore them all the time. I was happy to show my shirt and say I’m from Steinmetz.”

Students at the LSC meeting in October talked about the variety of shirts students were no longer allowed to wear. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

Students at the LSC meeting in September talked about the variety of Steinmetz shirts students were no longer allowed to wear. Some students asked that they be allowed to wear their sport or club shirt every Friday. Other students think that compromise doesn’t offer enough. Last year students wore these shirts any day they wanted to wear them. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

While some school officials have asserted that students look good in the uniform, many students disagree.

“I feel it looks unappealing,” Izabella said. “I feel uncomfortable, like I’m in a prison. In prison everyone dresses the same; they committed a crime so they have a punishment.”

Students have only been allowed out of uniform a few times during the first quarter – for the senior panoramic photo, spirit week and two special Friday celebrations of the Cubs and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Students were happy to wear clothing of their choice.

“Spirit Week was the first time I could breathe,” sophomore Jesus Cortez said.

Students had no say in this

The new uniform policy change surprised and angered many students. Over the summer students posted their reactions on Facebook.

“I got a call yesterday on my home phone saying that students are only allowed to wear polo shirts and khaki pants,” a junior wrote on July 22. “I was fine with last year’s uniform policy, but the fact that they’re making it more strict, along with no explanation, is what’s getting under my skin.”

Another student posted a GIF of one person attacking another. She wrote: “This will happen to every security and faculty member when they come at me enforcing the new school uniform policy.”

The frustration students felt at the beginning of the year, at Steinmetz moving backward on its uniform policy, has continued. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

The frustration students felt about Steinmetz moving backward on its uniform policy in September, shown by the large number of students who spoke out at the Sept. 14 LSC meeting, continued in October and through November. (Photo by Jesse Martinez.)

Uniform enforcement is unequal and a waste of time and effort for staff

Students don’t like being told what to do all the time. It’s also distraction for teachers and staff to have to enforce it.

In addition, teachers can’t enforce the policy equally because some students are less compliant than others. Some will not change when they are told.

“It’s unfair how they let some people get away with not wearing uniforms,” Leina said. “If they let people get away with not wearing the uniform, why even enforce it?”

Arguments in favor of the uniform are not coming from students, have been rejected by other schools

Most students didn’t see a problem with the old uniform policy. In a Star survey given to students in October, only a small group of students said they preferred wearing the uniform. The Star wasn’t able to find students to interview who had good reasons why the school should have a uniform policy.

Principal Stephen Ngo shared his reasons for the uniform in interviews with Star reporters. In a meeting with the 3rd period journalism class, he said the old policy was “too loosey goosey.” He also said without a uniform policy, students would dress inappropriately.

LSC president Vanessa Valentin shared her opinion during interviews with Star reporters and at the LSC meetings in response to students who spoke at the meetings. (See testimonies from Crystal Roman, Christian Perez, Jesse Hernandez).

At the LSC meeting in September, Ms. Valentin said the reason for the change is to benefit our security. Uniforms make it easier to identify kids from Steinmetz on the streets, so if we’re being harassed the idea is that someone from the community will come help.

Some school officials say the students look clean and organized, and it makes the less fortunate feel equal with the other students. Another argument for uniforms is that gang members can’t wear gang colors when they’re in uniform.

But most other schools on the north side of Chicago have rejected these old arguments. Steinmetz is one of the few non-charter, non-military public school to still require a uniform.



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