The GEM Debate:
Should Schools Ban Leggings? (POLL)
Yesterday, we talked here about the school officials at a North Carolina elementary school who told a 9-year-old boy he couldn’t bring his My Little Pony lunch bag to school because it was a “trigger for bullying.” Today, we bring you the story of an Evanston, Illinois middle school that has banned the wearing of leggings and yoga pants. Parents are speaking out against the ban because they say it unfairly punishes girls.
Juliet Bond and Kevin Bond sent a letter to principal Kathy Roberson, which says, in part: “Our daughter came home last night upset that in addition to leggings and shorts, the girls are now also not allowed to wear yoga pants at school.
The reason, she explained, is that these items of clothing are ‘too distracting’ for the boys.
This policy clearly shifts the blame for boy’s behavior or lack of academic concentration, directly onto the girls.”
Roberson says that leggings have not been banned, although the school’s policy reads: “Shorts, dresses, and skirts must extend closer to the knee than the hip, short shorts or skirts and leggings are unacceptable attire. Pants and shorts must be worn at the waist.”
Kevin Bond argues that the policy has been enforced inconsistently and that the principal has changed her interpretation of the policy saying that leggings are okay as long as there is a shirt that covers the top of the pants.
I feel some kinda way about this one. On one hand, when you see things like this NSFW Facebook fan page for leggings, I can see why people get bent out of shape about girls wearing leggings and yoga pants around a bunch of adolescent boys. On the other hand (which is the more important hand), blaming girls for distracting boys is unacceptable and, in my opinion, it’s insulting to both girls and boys.
For girls: Girls’ and women’s bodies are what they are. We can’t control the shape of our legs or the slope of our butts. Banning leggings because boys will get distracted is shaming girls for their bodies. It’s putting the onus of responsibility for things she cannot control (her body or boys’ behavior) directly on her. Such a policy does nothing to address male behavior.
For boys: It’s no secret that boys like to look at girls’ bodies, and schools that aren’t coed are a great place to do it. I don’t think that’s the problem. Boys should be taught how to behave, i.e. not to make lewd comments, make suggestive gestures, or ogle girls’ bodies. By not making that the issue, we just accept that boys can’t control themselves and I think that that does them a great disservice. This could lead to that middle school boy today going much too far with his college hookup tomorrow because he’s been sent the message all his life that he isn’t expected to control himself–that he’s not responsible for his behavior–because of what she’s wearing. He has never been given the message that, as difficult as it might be, he can and should be respectful of women at all times and modulate his own behavior.
Dress codes themselves are not a bad thing, but common sense should prevail. Whatever the items of clothing are, they should fit well. I don’t think it would be offensive to have a policy whereby all students must wear clothing that covers undergarments, for example. Girls could wear opaque leggings that don’t reveal panties or thongs and boys couldn’t wear pants that look like this.
This is my own experience speaking here, but I’m not a fan of school dress codes that put teachers in the business of being the fashion police, partly because it’s a subjective thing. One teacher is fine with skirt length, for example, and another teacher puts the kid out of class for it. All this policing takes focus away from important things like, oh, I don’t know, academic engagement and learning.
What do you think? Is a ban on leggings and yoga pants necessary or not? Take the poll and sound off below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexisnw16 [at] gmail [dot] com.