For years, school districts have been trying to stop students from wearing leggings and yoga pants to school, usually citing how “distracting” they are to male students. But now one school district in North Carolina is determined to police the legwear’s formal cousin, skinny jeans — and students are not accepting the school dress code without a fight.
New Hanover County Schools introduced the policy on Twitter on Monday, which says that “excessively tight fitting pants such as skinny jeans” should “face scrutiny” and that students should wear a long shirt or a dress that covers “the posterior.”
The school district asked students to contribute their thoughts — and they had many. One student wrote in response, “let’s hope you all are not stupid enough to say that this dress code doesn’t target ladies in general that’d be idiotic.” Other students argued they have never seen a student’s decision to wear something outside of the dress code distract anyone. Students also pointed out that, instead of focusing on pants, they would rather see the school district address problems such as students not having enough textbooks and bathroom facilities “falling apart.”
Being bullied is just as likely when you are in uniform as when you aren’t in uniform.
The school district is defending its choice by saying this is really about bullying. “One of the reasons behind the policy change was that some of the ‘bigger girls’ were getting bullied because of their tight jeans,” New Hanover County School Board Vice Chair Jeannette Nichols told local television station WECT in reference to the skinny jeans policy.
It’s unclear from the WECT interview whether the administration considered first addressing the bullying itself, instead of the supposed target of the bullying, or if they will be dealing with bullying issues in conjunction with a change in dress code. But it’s not unusual for school officials to defend dress code restrictions by saying they’re really about protecting students in some way. Administrators often say that stricter dress codes or school uniforms help prevent bullying.
But classism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and fat-shaming aren’t necessarily going away because the students change clothes, some education advocates and students argue. One student from Olympia, Washington wrote to the Olympian in opposition to uniforms and strict dress codes and argued that instead of preventing bullying, the restrictions allow administrators to turn a blind eye to it.
“Teachers assume that if everyone wears the same thing, no one can make fun of each other for what they wear. That may be true, but your clothes are not who you are. Uniforms can’t hide your personality,” she wrote. “Being bullied is just as likely when you are in uniform as when you aren’t in uniform. Uniforms don’t make everyone the same. They just make everyone look the same. There’s a difference, and not everyone realizes it.”
Charter School Gets Sued Over Dress Code Preventing Girls From Wearing PantsEducation CREDIT: Shutterstock A group of parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Charter Day School in Leland…thinkprogress.orgThere also aren’t any large-scale studies that prove there is a real link between how students dress and how they perform academically.
Students and parents often fight back against dress code restrictions, and sometimes take it all the way to court. Earlier this year, for instance, parents filed a federal lawsuit against the Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina because they say its dress code discriminates against girls. The charter school requires girls wear jumper dresses, skirts, or “skorts” each day — with the exception of gym class and other activities where the school deems shorts to be appropriate — while boys can wear shorts or pants. Parents complained that it’s unfair to tell girls to wear skirts even in colder weather.
There is also increasing resistance to dress codes that enforce gender norms. California students protested a policy that says only girls can wear skirts and dresses and that boys can’t wear their hair long or wear earrings.