Too racy for kids?

BY HEATHER RYNDAK Daily Herald Staff Writer

Teachers at Salt Creek Elementary School want their students to enjoy recess without being subjected to sexual images.

During the past month, teachers say that's been hard for the Elmhurst school students to do with a Hooters billboard looming across Route 83.

This week, 27 teachers and administrators at the school are demanding that business and town leaders take action to remove the suggestive billboard facing the school's playground.

"It is offensive enough that as adults we have to look at the billboard several times a day, but the young, impressionable children who learn here are a captive audience to this inappropriate, degrading advertising," said special education teacher Anne Dansdill, who is leading an effort to banish the advertisement.

In April, the Hooters ad was placed on the west side of Route 83 in Oakbrook Terrace, across from the school playground, which is on the east side just north of Roosevelt Road.

The advertisement features Hooters' restaurant trademark and a scantily-clad, buxom waitress, next to the slogan, "The cure for the common restaurant."

A chain-link fence, two frontage roads and state route separate the playground and advertisement, but the view of the woman in a tight, white tank-top and orange, short-shorts is not obstructed.

The sign concerned teachers at the small primary school, which serves pre-school, kindergarten and first-graders from Oakbrook Terrace and Villa Park. But they became alarmed last week when the young children made chalk-drawings of voluptuous women on the playground's blacktop.

"We don't want our kids to walk onto the playground and see this filth," Dansdill said. "It's time to speak up and do something about this poor choice of advertising here."

Nick Celozzi, who owns the property at Kolberg Court and Frontage Road off Route 83 and leases the sign to a Naperville advertising agency, said he doesn't like the Hooters advertisement at that location. But he says it's up to the ad agency to respond to the school's concerns.

"The advertising agency pays me each month whether the sign is blank or not," Celozzi said. "I didn't really question it (the Hooters advertisement) being there."

Sal Melilli, Hooters spokesman in Chicago, did not return calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the advertising firm representing Hooters said he will comment Monday.

Paramount Media Group Inc., the advertising agency that leases the sign from Celozzi, also did not return calls this week.

Oakbrook Terrace Mayor William Kallas said the city is examining whether the sign violates city codes.

Kallas said he is checking whether the city mandates that billboards reflect the business located on the same property as the sign.

The Hooters sign is located on Celozzi's property, which is rented by a go-cart, batting-cage entertainment business called, "Just Fun Amusement," which often attracts children.

Kallas is also determining whether the billboard meets the city's sign height and length standards.

"We are addressing this from the standpoint of whether this is a proper use of the sign according to village code," Kallas said Friday.

Legally, Kallas said the city's hands are tied if the billboard does not violate its sign laws.

"The city can put pressure on what businesses can illustrate and the language they use," Kallas said.

State Sen. Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican, said neither the state nor towns can restrict content on billboard without violating free-speech rights. But towns can generally limit the size and locations of billboards.

"I don't like the message the sign sends to children at a tender age," Cronin said.

"The teachers need to appeal to the property owner to be a good neighbor because he can dictate the terms of the lease. They should also contact the restaurant to do what is in the best interest of the community."

Legislation to regulate billboard content has failed in the past, Cronin said. Several years ago, a Chicago reverend drafted legislation requiring alcohol and tobacco billboard advertisements to be placed at least 500 feet away from school property. The measure did not pass.



This Page was created on 3rd July, 2000