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D215 Board members discuss community usage of property, displaying pride flag

No decisions, just discussion, at September 13 Committee of the Whole meeting

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (September 14, 2023) – The Thornton Fractional High School District 215 Board held their Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday evening under the leadership of Board President Patricia Stepp. Stepp has been serving as president since August 30, when Rich Dust announced he would need to resign from the role as he deals with health-related issues. Dust remains on the board as a regular member.

Protecting property

As part of the Buildings and Grounds report, Maintenance Director Tim Stephan recommended that the board consider prohibiting public use of the new facilities at TF South. “I don’t believe that the track or the stadium should be open to the community without some sort of supervision,” he said, citing safety of students and damage to the property as the main reasons for the restriction. “I’ve seen the results of the community using it,” he said, recalling damage that the TF North track suffered several years ago. “Community usage does bring on a wear and tear. …My objective is to try and make our schools and our properties the best and safest we can make for our students.”

The 15-minute discussion covered a variety of factors for consideration:

  • Stephan pointed out that many of the surrounding school districts do not allow community usage of facilities. “Crete High School does, and H-F does,” he said, “but anybody else around this area, they don’t leave it open.”
  • Superintendent John Robinzine recognized the difficulties of providing supervision, including cost.
  • Board member Dominique Newman wondered if the TF South tennis courts would also be included in the restriction.
  • Finance Director Teresa Bishop suggested the possibility of litigation and liability if a member of the public were to be injured on district property.
  • Stephan described the special care that turf requires, compared to a grass field. “There are a lot more rules when it comes to turf,” he said. “Pop. Gum. Pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds. These are all strict rules that you can’t have anywhere near turf, which are gonna be hard enough to enforce on our own kids and staff let alone saying open to the community.”
  • Robinzine also acknowledged that it is taxpayer dollars that pay for district amenities.

Board members were encouraged to take time to give the matter full consideration before a decision needs to be made.

The District 215 Board discussed the pros and cons of opening the new field and track for public use when it is finally completed. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Flying flags

In anticipation of Pride month in June, President Stepp asked the board to “consider a resolution to honor our LGBTQ community by letting them know we’re going to display the pride flag on all of our flagpoles.”

Newman asked whether a resolution is necessary in order to take an action such as flying a flag. Stepp explained that going through the process of drafting a resolution and voting on it would be an important symbolic gesture.

Board member Marcie Wilson suggested that the resolution should be more inclusive, allowing a variety of marginalized groups to fly a flag during their designated months — Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Month, as well as Pride month. “If we open it up, we should have it where everybody feels included,” she said.

“Well, LGBTQ is separate from that,” responded Stepp. “All of those are included in the LGBTQ community. It’s not race. It’s not religion. It’s not gender. It is universal. So, comparing those — it’s apples and oranges. I have no issue with anyone else wanting to display [a flag], but the separation is there. I just think that needs to be said.”

From the audience, Bishop suggested consulting a lawyer before voting on a resolution. Stepp said she had already been in contact with Attorney Petrarca and didn’t think it would be an issue. “As long as that’s not an issue I would like a resolution drawn up,” she said.

Robinzine suggested waiting to hear from the attorney. Newman asked if there would be any harm in waiting until October to vote, giving board members time to think through the proposal and process any feedback from the attorney.

“I don’t see any reason to keep postponing it,” said Stepp. “Why postpone it to October? It’s simple. It’s putting a flag on a flagpole to honor our LGBT community. The same as the capitol building. I don’t understand why there’s any kind of a controversy. Our capitol does it. They do it in Springfield.”

Wilson restated that she wants to hear what the attorney says, and she wants any resolution to be all-inclusive. Dust agreed.

Stephan let the board know that such a resolution would necessitate that District 215 make adjustments to their flagpoles, which currently are fitted for just one flag, or in some cases two (American and Illinois).

The flagpole at TF South currently is able to fly only one flag, the American flag. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Stepp agreed to inform the board of the attorney’s input as soon as she receives it.

District 215 meetings

The D215 Committee of the Whole meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., and Regular Board meetings are generally held on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. Meetings are held at the TF Center for Academics & Technology, located at 1605 Wentworth Avenue, Calumet City, Illinois.

The TF Center for Academics & Technology is located at 1605 Wentworth Avenue, Calumet City, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The members of the District 215 Board are listed on the Thornton Fractional District 215 website, and links are available for community members who wish to contact board members directly:

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


  1. Absolutely Not. Flagpoles are for our American Flag, not ‘the cause of the week.’ Bottom line we are Americans, not ‘each ethnicity’ and no, LGBTQ+ does Not include ethnicities. I read this article to several of my friends & family and they took huge offense at that general statement. That’s pushing your personal agenda, not standing on what our Flag stands for. We are Americans. Flagpoles ARE expensive, and as a taxpayer, NO. A new pole would entail new concrete, a new pole, wiring system to run the flag up & down the pole. Plus, even if your lawyer says it’s doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean the school won’t be subject to ‘another group’ coming along and saying they are discriminated against because you don’t raise their flag. There are too many groups out there for the District to constantly be purchasing different flags and paying someone to be changing them all the time, when we the tax payers are paying for the product and the time of something we might not even agree with! Trying to fast talk, manipulate by pushing & embarrassing the Board into this on a whim, is not professional or acceptable, and yes, you have gotten the community’s attention.

  2. According to Establishment Clause violations, what is done at non-school hours is acceptable in matters pertaining to free speech. This means the flag would have to come down before school starting time and may be run up the pole after school hours pursuant to state compulsory attendance laws. I somehow don’t think this would satisfy the flag-flying proposer since it would not be visible during school hours when students, faculty, and staff are there.


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