Two dozen students disciplined for violating bandana rule
Two dozen students at Pekin Community High School have been disciplined and even suspended for having bandanas at school.
Now, protests from students and parents have changed the way school policies will be reviewed.
Students who have been suspended spoke out against what they called unfair and inconsistent enforcement of the anti-bandana rule during the District 303 School Board meeting Monday night.
"That’s one of the symbols of gang activity," Board Vice President Gary Lowe said Tuesday. "Associating yourself with a group of people through your manner of dress does cause disruptions at school."
But students and parents say the gang explanation doesn’t hold up and that the bandana policy is unclear.
"We don’t have gang activity in our high school," said Carl Johnson, whose daughter is a junior at the school but hasn’t run afoul of the bandana rule. "We’re blessed that we don’t have that."
The current student handbook says: "Caps, hats, headbands, bandanas, sun glasses, and clothing that includes chains are not acceptable attire within or in close proximity to the school."
The student handbook is revised each summer but Principal Mike Davis plans to amend the handbook on a monthly basis, including input from parents, Lowe said.
Davis refused to comment on the bandana issue Tuesday, referring all questions to Superintendent Paula Davis. Several messages left for her were not returned Tuesday.
Parents asked the board to make the bandana rule clearer, defining what is and isn’t acceptable, and said baseball hats are included in the ban but are tolerated daily.
On Monday, Davis said 24 students have been officially disciplined in some way regarding bandanas: eight were suspended for wearing bandanas after they had been told not to; three were suspended for insubordination; and 13 received warnings.
Junior Breanna Morris was suspended for protesting the suspensions by remaining silent in class, said her mother Kara Morris. She notified the Illinois State Board of Education about her daughter’s suspension.
Students say some received a warning, while some were suspended without notification.
"I wasn’t given a warning," said sophomore ReyAnn Brewster, who said she and a group of friends had bandanas in their back pockets. "It was just an automatic suspension."
Brewster and other students said the situation has been blown out of proportion.
"I actually think it’s quite stupid," junior Sam Smith said of the bandana ban. "I usually wear a bandana around my arm. It doesn’t mean anything."
Smith said despite the school’s intentions, the ban doesn’t make students any safer.
"Come on. It’s Pekin," Smith said. "There are no gangs in Pekin."
Kevin Sampier can be reached at (309) 346-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. GateHouse News Services contributed to this report.