By Priscila Bautista ’18 and Nadia Segura ’18, guest writers
- Original Pritzker Press article, “Save the date: October 31, 2017,” misinterpreted.
- News sources never reached out to current students or staff to verify information with a named source.
- Black pants instead of khakis are about giving women more security and confidence when on their periods, not about restricting bathroom access.
- In our experience, bathroom access is not denied at Noble. One anecdote does not speak for everyone, or even most, across 12,000 students and 18 campuses.
- Noble isn’t perfect, but this is not a problem worth reporting.
- Noble gives students a voice and encourages students to do so with logic.
Recently, the Noble Network of Charter Schools has been at the center of attention for its schools’ alleged “inhumane” policies. We want to address, specifically, the criticism surrounding the change in uniform at Pritzker College Prep, a Noble Network campus, for the sake of objective, veracious journalism.
The change in uniform was launched by the authors of this article as well as Pritzker graduate Alva Chavez, with the support of two teachers, Journalism teacher Katie Curtin and Physical Education teacher Sarah Cross. An article by NPR Illinois incorrectly claims that the change in dress code from khaki to black pants was sparked by “Three students writing for Pritzker Press” (it was covered by the Pritzker Press, but we’re not in Journalism), but never specifies the people who were at the head of this project, as none of the news sources contacted us or our peers through email, social media, or comment on the original post. Claims from other sources that argue the change in uniform was created due to policies that “are so strict that students don’t have enough time to go to the bathroom and regularly bleed through their pants” completely overlook our motives to create change and also draw erroneous conclusions about the project. At no point did these sources reach out to acknowledge our efforts, corroborate information, check statistics, or create a well-informed article. The misinterpretations that have occurred, instead, are disappointing.
Because no one contacted us, the purpose of our project was misunderstood, as was the reality for most students. We started our initiative last year as a way for female students to feel more comfortable in school when these annoying and, often, unavoidable accidents happen and to start a conversation around menstruation, which is sadly still stigmatized and poorly understood. We recognized that a common problem we face is bleeding through our pants. This can be a result of not expecting our period that day (many girls have irregular periods), bleeding through our pad, and many other possibilities. We could not stop girls from bleeding through their pants, because it happens to girls at literally every school in the country, so the best solution was to find a way to mitigate it. Thus, we believed a way to help would be to change from khaki to black pants. We knew that with black pants, the blood would be much less obvious so a girl would not have to constantly worry that people could see it.
However, all of this was ignored in these articles. Instead, the focus was on the bathroom policy. In our four years at Pritzker, we have never been denied access to bathrooms and sanitary products, especially when it comes to cases like these. At the start of every year, we are told where we can easily access pads and tampons whenever we need them. In our experience, teachers understand and respect students’ situations.
Unfortunately, one Noble student’s situation, in which she was denied access to the bathroom, has been exploited and used as grounds to target all charter schools in the Noble Network. While we are appalled by the response she received, we, as female students who have stained our pants multiple times, recognize that we have never received such a cold response from a teacher. It is not the school’s policies that cause the stains– it’s biology, and it’s absurd to claim anything otherwise. In fact, teachers have helped us by washing and drying our stained pants with a washing machine and dryer available at school, allowing us to borrow a clean pair of pants for the day, and giving us the sanitary products we need— all free of charge. This support only increased thanks to a bill passed in Illinois, which requires schools to have pads and tampons available to students for free in all female bathrooms. Our project was motivated not to find a temporary solution to our schools alleged “unfair” and “inhumane” policies, but to help students feel comfortable at all times, even when accidents occur. One girl’s experience should not be an indication of the faults of a policy or generally applied to a network of schools. Instead, it should highlight the struggle girls face when it comes to their periods. This is what conversations should be about, and what we had hoped conversations would be about, not the school system or even bathroom policies.
Charter schools in the Noble Network, along with many of their policies, are far from perfect, but they are slowly improving as students and teachers use their voices to spark change. There have, indeed, been times when we, as students, have recognized many rules and disciplinary actions are excessive. However, the times in which demerits are given without a valid reason are the exception, not the norm. Expectations at these schools are clearly defined, and parents and students are expected to read the student handbook so as to be aware of them. This is the same across schools nationwide, so Noble Network Charter Schools are not unique in having rules. If students find any policies to be “dehumanizing” or excessive, we hope they advocate for a change with the people in charge, and we hope the administration will be happy to listen, as they did for us.