Taft LSC discusses reports of problems with bathrooms
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Nov. 5 meeting discussed parents’ concerns about drug activity and other problems in school bathrooms and a recent petition drive calling for changes in the school’s dress code.
Two parents reported at the meeting that their children have complained about drug sales, marijuana use, cigarette smoking and cleanliness problems in student bathrooms. "I don’t think my son is an anomaly," one of the parents said. "He generally feels he can’t go to the bathroom because of the environment there."
Taft dean of students Sam Duarte, who is a faculty LSC member, reported that several students who were responsible for drug problems have been arrested and that teachers and security personnel are encouraged to check the bathrooms. Duarte said that it is difficult to deter smoking in part because it is considered a "minor" infraction under the Chicago Public Schools’ student conduct code.
School administrators said that they are aggressive in seeking the expulsion of students who are caught with drugs or committing other major infractions of the conduct code but that it is rare for the school system to approve a referral. "Last year we had 100 expulsion referrals, highest in the city," Duarte said.
Taft principal Mary Kay Cappitelli, who is resigning her post effective Nov. 15 due to health reasons, told the LSC that the janitorial crews clean the bathrooms every 2 hours during the school day but that student vandalism, such as pouring soap from the dispensers onto the floor, is a problem.
LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger recommended that the school post a security guard outside one set of bathrooms to see if it resolves some of the problems, but Duarte said that the problems likely would just move to another part of the school.
The council also discussed a series of five fights which occurred on the same day. "Is that a normal day at Taft? No, it is not," Cappitelli said. "This is a safe school. There is not a high school that does not have gang or drug problems. If you can find one, Northside College Prep included, please tell me."
Meanwhile, the council was presented a petition calling for the school to rescind or relax Taft’s dress code, which requires students to wear blue or black pants and a white collared shirt with sleeves with some exceptions for clothing items containing the school logo. About 450 students signed the petition.
A student reported that the petition stemmed in part from a series of days in September on which the dress code was waived for students who attended the first day of classes this semester. The student said that if the dress code is not eliminated, students should be given more leeway in the types of clothing that they can wear.
The student also said that some teachers have told him that the enforcing the dress code is a waste of time.
"I have been here 2 1/2 years, and I have heard some of the same stories from students and some faculty," Schwieger said. She said that the LSC would have to approve any changes in the dress code.
The school will hold a benefit tribute to former Taft student Terry Kath, who was the lead guitarist in the rock band Chicago until his death in 1978, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15. The event will feature a Chicago tribute band, and tickets cost $15.