Girls getting fed up with school dress codes that treat them as distractions

Schools waste a lot of time enforcing dress codes, most of which focus on preventing young girls from distracting young boys.

Hardly, a week goes by without a news story about overreach by a school administrator who suspends a girl home because of an errant hem or blue hair. (See this Georgia freshman sent home for blue hair, and this Alabama girl for red.)

Here is one of the signs posted by a student on Tumblr to protest dress codes that focus almost exclusively on girls.

Here is one of the signs posted by a student on Tumblr to protest dress codes that focus almost exclusively on girls.

(This generation won’t flub the PSAT if a classmate shows up with magenta tresses.)

Decisions about clothing and hair color should be left to parents and students. The usual retort here is I don’t know the revealing stuff girls wear today.

I know what girls wear. And the range of acceptability has changed, as has what we consider proper attire for boys. We are long past skirts for girls and suits for boys. People wear shorts to church. On hot days, men walk around Atlanta shirtless and women wear halter tops. There is no resulting panic in the street. You may not like it, but freedom to dress as we choose is firmly embedded in American culture now.

It wasn’t long ago society contended a flash of female ankle was distracting and women had to cloak themselves from head to toe. Kids today are used to seeing a lot more exposed flesh than even a generation ago. Go to a beach and it’s often dads turning around discreetly to look at teenage girls, not their sons who have grown up seeing midriffs and thighs.

To that point, check out this video from a homeschooled student who attended a prom for homeschooled teens. The teen says she was asked to leave because male chaperones feared she was provoking impure thoughts among boys.

Bottom line for me, it is not the responsibility of girls to ensure male classmates aren’t flummoxed by above-the-knee shorts or sleeveless tank tops.  And girls’ education should not be sacrificed.

As this mom wrote on Slate after her sixth grader was sent home for her shorts: My daughter was punished for showing too much of her (gasp!) legs. Her school is normalizing the notion that girls’ bodies are distractions. That girls bear responsibility for boys’ reactions to their bodies. That boys have thoughts that are inherently impure and will lead to misconduct. The school’s chosen mode of punishment is disrupting girls’ educational experiences and quite possibly hindering their legal right to an education. The message and actions perpetuated by gender-biased implementation of school dress codes—the blaming and shaming of our girls—has got to stop.

Girls are tiring of the inherent bias in dress codes and have started the   campaign.  And a Pope High School student sent me this letter I wanted to share on this issue:

When you send a girl home because of a violation in dress code rules or her clothing is too immodest, you are essentially telling her that hiding her body is more important than her education. You are telling her that making sure boys have a distraction-free learning environment is the uppermost priority.

In a way, you’re telling her that’s boys are more entitled to an education than she is, and, if I’m not mistaken, defeats the purpose of a school. Since when do boys dictate whether or not their learning environment is distraction free?

Maybe the better question is why are we punishing girls for a crime boys are committing? Boys have self-control. It isn’t fair for girls to be limited from expressing themselves through clothing. Now I’m not saying we throw away all dress code rules, I’m simply saying that the rules are too harsh.

Every time a teacher has to stop class to remove a girl is time students waste when they could be learning. Not only that, but the girl who was removed is now missing out on her education to be criticized for something that should not be her fault.

Yes, some clothes are definitely not school appropriate. Those clothes should not be permitted. All I’m proposing is that we quit being so harsh on the girls dress code. Education is too important to be interrupted. Boys should not blame their inability to focus on the girls.

By enforcing the rules, you are sending each and every girl a message. You are saying to them that because they are female, they are guilty and should cover their body. How do you think this will impact girls in later years? Girls will have a sub-conscious thought in her mind that tells her that she should be ashamed of her body.

Women have the rights, like every other human on earth, to express themselves and be confident in the person they are happy to be. By enforcing these unjust rules over them, you are stripping them of the person they want to become. You are stripping away their education. And education ought to be every school’s top priority.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

60 comments
Rony Nguyen
Rony Nguyen

This concern is rampant throughout LuLu reviews and blogs alike- what will it take to make the changes? My practice deserves all of my energy and focus; therefore worrying about camel toe cannot be on my radar. http://www.mariogames.name

Megan Cronce
Megan Cronce

I agree with this article entirely. I believe that we have the right to wear whatever we want without being told to cover up.  If anything, boys should be told to grow up and mind their own business.

Peyton Stewart
Peyton Stewart

Girls can wear whatever they want. It is an act against society and we need to rebel. Us girls know this is not okay and we will not stand for it. Dress coding is very sexist and not worth any ones time, and if boys are too distracted by a shoulder as parents, you need to teach your son that a shoulder is not sexual.

Brycelynn Feiler
Brycelynn Feiler

Girls should be able to show their shoulders and legs. Of course not their butt or boobs but enough to where they can wear the clothes they want. Boys can have it whatever way they want with their overly sized shirts, butts' out of their pants and bandannas on their head or legs. We deserve rights to clothes just as much as guys do. 

Taylor Swinson
Taylor Swinson

Girls should have fair clothes rights! Boys can wear their pant down to their knees with their butt hanging out and we can show are shoulders that's just crazy talk. Girl are not treated fairly at all we have rights just as much as they do!

Jacquelyn Ortiz
Jacquelyn Ortiz

I currently work at a high school and I see all sides of the Dress Code issue. There is the side of the student, the teacher, the administration and of course the parents. It's a daily thing it seems like whether it is dyed hair that is not considered a "natural" color, girls' bra straps showing, boys not wearing belts or wearing baseball caps. I am not a parent, but there are times where I have even asked myself, "why 'did' this student get sent to the office for a dress code?" I also hate to say it, but it's mostly girls that are addressed. I think that in some cases, the statement about what we are showing male and female students about a girl's clothing being distracting to the learning process, is sometimes louder than the statement of the actual piece of clothing.

Halli Setzer
Halli Setzer

I agree with this completely. They shouldn't take all the dress codes away but there is certain things that shouldn't matter or punish girls for.

Emma1998
Emma1998

I agree. Girls should be able to wear certain clothing that is banned from schools but there is boundaries. 

alexis ficht
alexis ficht

I feel the same way about this. I do not think girls should be treated differently in school based on what they are wearing. Schools should be more lenient with the dress code policy.

wow26
wow26

Wow! Reading this makes me wonder why I, as a guy, had restriction on my hair, what type of pants I could wear, jewelry (couldn't wear any), and the likes. Was i not...masculine enough ? Or is my case a basket case ? I just can't deal with the oblivious and extreme narcissism of girls today. 

Troy Graham
Troy Graham

I think that is a good idea. It makes concentrating in schools easier.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

Fashion PSA, ladies: Keep your under garments under...and hidden.  Make sure that your flimsy dress has a slip so that we all don't have to see your thong and notice your inner fashionista.


Sorry, girls who do dress with a ton of skin showing are a distraction not only to male students but also to male AND female teachers.  Keep it covered. I firmly believe that men would act like gentlemen if women acted (and dressed) like ladies.


I would rather make my daughter's clothes or cut off pants to make them shorts rather than have her objectify herself.  That is what it is, plain and simple.  Girls who dress without care to cover themselves DO objectify themselves. 


Robtown
Robtown

If I wear shorts to church, will I burn in hell?

Tcope
Tcope

Two words that distract, camel toe.

popacorn
popacorn

Wear yoga pants, no brains present or required. 

AprilMae
AprilMae

Who wears shorts to church??


Other than that, I agree with what you've said.

NoahVale
NoahVale

"You may not like it, but freedom to dress as we choose is firmly embedded in American culture now."


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No, Ms. Downey, this "freedom" has only become embedded in current culture because of those like yourself who have allowed it to happen.  You would do well to head the words and advice of Rev. Billy Graham:


"World renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, the founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association   said that our children are growing up in a “lawless and wicked age,” infused with the “philosophy of the Devil, who says, ‘Do as you please.’”

Further, rearing children in this culture is difficult because “we have taken God out of our educational systems and thought we could get away with it,” said Rev. Graham. “We have sown the wind, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. We have laughed at God, religion and the Bible.”

“Many Christian parents are becoming fearful that they cannot properly train their children in this lawless and wicked age,” and are asking, “What can I do with my son? My daughter?” said Rev. Graham.

“We are beginning to reap what has been sown for the past generation,” he said.  “We have taught the philosophy of the Devil, who says, ‘Do as you please.’ Behaviorism has been the moral philosophy of much of our education in the past few years.”

Rev. Graham continued, “Many of our educational leaders sneer at the old-fashioned idea of God and a moral code. Movies feature sex, sin, crime and alcohol. Teenagers see these things portrayed alluringly on the screen and decide to go and try them. Newspapers have played up crime and sex until they seem glamorous to our young people.”

One of the fundamental problems, according to Rev. Graham, is the failure of parents to fight “the Devil in the home” through discipline and, as a result, “children are allowed to go wild.”

Parents must spend time with their children, set a good example for them, discipline them, and teach them to “know God,” said the pastor, who has five children and 19 grandchildren.

“If you fail to discipline your children, you are breaking the laws, commandments and statutes of God,” said Rev. Graham.  “You are guilty not only of injuring the moral, spiritual and physical lives of your children, but of sinning against God. The Bible says that if you fail to discipline your children, you actually hate them.”

The best way to influence your children, he added, is to set a good example because “the majority of children acquire the characteristics and habits of their parents.”

Michael Chapman - cnsnews.com - November 19, 2014

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@NoahVale You can set a fine example for children without it being linked to God.  There are plenty of atheist families with children who very well behaved, and plenty of "Christian" families whose children run wild. It is not the religion which is the determining factor. 

Kodie56
Kodie56

Girls now wear "leggings" that are in reality nothing more than tights and the shirts they wear with these so called leggings do not go below their waist.  It's the same effect of putting panty hose on and forgetting to add your skirt or slacks.  We would not allow a professional to wear that in the work force so why allow students to wear that in the classroom.  You feel as if you are working in an environment of half naked students. Schools need to either enforce the dress code or start requiring uniforms.  The  environment in schools is becoming more like what one would find in a night club on Saturday nights.  Unfortunately administrators are caving in to parents. The saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" can be applied to education because it is simply not possible to have enough administrators (assistant principals) on hand to deal with the crazy parent complaints!!  As a result basic standards no longer exist. Discipline is non existent, dress codes are not enforced, attendance is no longer mandatory, and crime (theft, drugs within the school and theft of near by stores) is common place. Schools no longer arrest students because police reports are open records and it makes the school look bad.  It would be great if someone would step up to the plate and go back to basics but no one seems to have the courage to do that.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

We wouldn't be having this discussion at all if schools required uniforms.  The little ankle-biters will learn, eventually, to appear in various states of undress in the rabbit warrens that we now laughingly call college dorms.  


Uniforms force self-modeling of proper dress.

popacorn
popacorn

The pervasive thought among low IQ educators, mostly female,  is that there is no difference between boys and girls. Therefore, both should act/respond the same in all situations. Inherent physiological differences, difficult to comprehend, thus become meaningless to those who struggle intellectually. Hence, blame it all on the boys. Girls rule!

LaraineSSA
LaraineSSA

Now hair is a different matter.  I don't see any problem with streaks of color, a mohawk or whatever.

LaraineSSA
LaraineSSA

My boys wear jeans and a tee shirt every day with pants at the waist.  There is not much room to go wrong. The clothing choices for girls are far more varied and complicated, and that's why they get in trouble more. In our schools, shoulders are forbidden for both genders because the line get blurred between shoulder/back/gaping armhole that allow the bra to be totally visible.  Sadly, girls today are taught by our culture that their ultimate goal is to look "hot." No wonder they wind up with inappropriate cleavage and Daisy Duke shorts.And some of the parents don't do any better.  A mother showed up at our elementary school one day in a gaping halter top that left nothing to the imagination.

Philosopher1280
Philosopher1280

@LaraineSSA And yet, not too long ago, our parents were HORRIFIED at such undisciplined sloppy dress...we had to fight for the right to wear jeans to school. So these folks who want to rave and rant about fashion as seen by teenagers are really nothing but modern versions of their parents...same complaints, different generation, same lack of understanding that kids need to blaze their own paths, make their own statements, gain their freedom  from parents and  explore who they are in small ways with reasonable parental guidance. Uniforms are just for control-freaks.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Interesting comments here. The usual stance is that parents know best when it comes to their children's education. hence the need for unfettered school choice.

Yet, parents are not capable of choosing a pair of shorts for their 11-year-olds

So, which is it? Parents ought to have ultimate say over all aspects of their child's education or they're so clueless they can't even dress their kids appropriately.

Can't have it both ways, folks.

Also, if you have read this blog for any length of time -- it has been around since 2009 -- you can find hundreds of  entries on APS, the impact of poverty on education and the challenges of math education in both Georgia and the nation.

I think dress codes and the messages therein are worth discussion. Based on the reader counts on this topic, so do a lot of other people.

zekeI
zekeI

What a clueless article! Regardless of the liberal agenda, YES, the female body exposed IS A DEFINITE DISTRACTION TO MALES OF ANY AGE! And no, parents of today, as indoctrinated as they are from cradle through college, HAVE NO MORALITY WHEN IT COMES TO THESE THINGS!  And no, no girl's education should suffer from such liberal stupidity, but, neither should the distraction cause the male's education to suffer!  A reasonable requirement of how school students, male or female, dress is appropriate!!!!!!

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

I give up. You just can't reason with liberals. I am done with this blog. I will find some other outlet to discuss education policy. It is a shame, as education is near and dear to my heart owing to the fact that my mother and many other of my relatives are public school employees - and you could have asked my mother, God rest her soul, about the unworkable leftist nonsense being pushed by people like this - but you just can't have a discourse with people that are so divorced from reality. 


My goodness, we have 12 year olds having children (out of wedlock of course) and a large percentage of kids who think that the law no longer applies to them (they freely use drugs, commit theft, assault and sexual battery), most of the kids in many of our high schools cannot read or compute on a 5th grade level - it is so bad that they had to start allowing high school kids to use calculators for basic math - yet girls being oppressed by dress codes is the pressing issue that she wishes to discuss. Or about how so many school districts do not have the budget for gifted or remedial programs because of the costs associated with absorbing illegal immigrants.

Not the APS cheating scandal or the urban culture that caused them to be desperate enough to cheat to cover up their huge population of functionally illiterate kids, but girls being forced not to dress like the female "celebrities" that everyone knows is famous for selling their bodies as opposed to actual talent. 


That is it. I am done. Adios.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@dontstereotypemeyo


I think this is less a "liberal" verse "conservative" issue than it is a generational and cultural issue.  My grandparents would have been shocked at some of the clothing that is considered "acceptable" by the general public now.  And our entertainment media also helps set the trends by glorifying celebrities with questionable tastes in attire.  Was it not a week ago that Kim K was all over the news for her... ahem... lack of attire?  All of this has an impact.  Television shows depict professional women dressed in clothing that, 10 years ago, might have been considered appropriate attire for a streetwalker, but not a female CEO.  Not to mention, the fashion industry that dominates the choices for clothing in the stores - tending to sexualize clothing at younger and younger ages, so that now, it is deemed normal to have young girls wearing hot pants and crop tops..not to mention those "Juicy" and "Kiss My A$$" banners across their back sides.  This makes it hard for parents to find clothing that does not follow the trends. 


And it is not just schools that are struggling with where to draw the line.  Think about other venues.  College students now regularly show up for class in pajama pants and slippers.  I see grown women in curlers and bunny slippers in the aisles of grocery stores.  Folks show up to church in jeans and t-shirts.  People do not tend to "dress up" anymore, and if anything, seem determined to dress "down" - as though they make no distinction between their going out in public and what they like to wear while lounging on the couch.  


I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.  I really do not see a problem with purple hair, or earrings on boys, or torn jeans in class, but I also recognize that young men ARE struggling with hormonal changes and we need to be mindful of that.  Certainly, that is no excuse to abuse or degrade young women, but you can't just tell those young men to stop noticing, or stop being distracted.  In the same way, I would have a problem with those young men showing up in class shirtless as that would also be a distraction. Everyone is very interested in making sure their personal right to express themselves are never infringed upon.  However, we as individuals do not live in a bubble.  We live in a society of many, and the choices we may also have an impact upon others. We need to be conscious of that as well. 

Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

I don't object as much to shorts that are too short as I do to "JUICY" splayed across the posterior.

SJGM
SJGM

I think ALL schools--private and PUBLIC--should wear uniforms. Period.

It's less costly.

There's no 'stylin and profilin.'

No sneaker envy.

There's greater school pride and a focus on education.

Also, the yearbook pictures should return to those drape-things form days of yore.

teachermom4
teachermom4

I have no problem with school dress codes. The hardest part of following them does come in the sweltering August heat, however. As fashion has evolved, it has become increasingly difficult to find shorts that fit the code. When my almost-thirteen year old daughters were small, there was no problem finding longer shorts. Now that they are old enough to look "provocative" or inappropriate, it is almost impossible to find shorts long enough that don't look like they were made for their grandma. Neither one is terribly fashion conscious, but I don't think either wants to wear elastic waist, knee length pastel shorts, either. The shorts we do buy do not look obscene, but they do not meet length requirements. Mid-thigh is about the best we can do. I agree that spaghetti strap tanks may be pushing it, but regular tank tops with the wider shoulder should not be a problem.


Overall, I do agree with the message that kids need to learn appropriate dress, especially if nobody at home is teaching them. I have worked in schools where it is clear that some of the parents clearly don't understand appropriate dress, so the children have no other role models for this skill. It's unfortunate that clothing manufacturers are not making it easy for young girls to follow the rules. I know they sell what people want to buy, but I also believe they manipulate what people think they want to buy by manufacturing the styles that they do.

LaraineSSA
LaraineSSA

@teachermom4  The Land's End catalog has a wide variety of nice clothing for girls--including bathing suits that actually cover their bottoms.

bu2
bu2

For a change, EVERY single comment is far more reasoned and rational than the blog post.


Dress codes apply to both sides.  Its just that girls have more options which gives them more ways to go wrong.


Zero tolerance policies are nonsense, but schools, like workplaces, need to have some standards and consistently enforce them.

EdgarConnell
EdgarConnell

MD "Bottom line for me, it is not the responsibility of girls to ensure male classmates aren’t flummoxed by above-the-knee shorts or sleeveless tank tops.  And girls’ education should not be sacrificed."


I'm a teacher and we have higher students work with lower students as partners to help "bring them up".


By this argument- It is not the responsibility of my child should not be put in "groups" to try to help lower students with reading or be forced to stay in a class with a disruptive student who has a hard home life and is being 'monitored'.  My girls' education should not be sacrificed."


LIdawg
LIdawg

You should go to Utah if you really want to see dress code nazi's...the bias in that state is off the chart and so full of denial as to border on the absurd.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"Yes, some clothes are definitely not school appropriate. Those clothes should not be permitted."

So just what should be allowable? Parents should be the first line of defense. They should be contacted first to determine what they deem to be allowable and proper dress explained to them and their kid. Khakis and a polo should be the uniform. I know that if skirts are worn, the girls may roll the top  hem to shorten the dress...I have 5 sisters...all did that! Shorts are acceptable as long as they are not "skin tight".


One thing missing is peer competition. By wearing a uniform , this tends to go away...everybody is dressed the same. There is also the teamwork thing that may promote kids to be less self centered and open to helping their classmates. If they are constantly in a fashion show, they become more self centered.

hssped
hssped

Dress code monitoring is also a pain for teachers.  First and second period you are expected to catch it and report it.  Sometimes it is obvious...not a problem.  Other times it is just nitpicking and it does take away from instruction.  And sometimes you worry all day because you saw it first and didn't report it because you didn't think it was so bad.  You know what I mean....is the tank top strap 3 fingers wide or 2 fingers wide and who's fingers do we use to measure?  

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

If it is, in fact, the purpose of our public education to prepare students for becoming adults, part of that education includes how one dresses when in a working environment.  Whether the attire required in a professional environment be a uniform, casual or formal, it's purpose is not to distract a colleague, especially when said colleague is performing less than adequately in a social and/or "work your keep" task.  Children (under 18) cannot be presumed to have savvy in their selection of attire; one hopes that parental input will help guide said child, but there is no guarantee that sagacious advice towards such things is available to that student.  A school can't control that aspect of influence in creating a productive working environment.  Simply put, a boss wouldn't approve of it; why should a teacher or principal do so?  


Having said that, reprimands for improper attire should not venture on the punitive.  Suspensions are too much on a first or second offense, but after the third, I've no problem with it.  Students need to learn that life doesn't play on the student's terms; life plays on life's terms.  Teachers (and parents) instruct when inappropriate respect of "professional" attire (clothing best suited to the environment) is presented.  It's not about the cause, but about the aversion.


Is it fair or right?  Nothing about life is.  Another part of the education process that gets overlooked.  To quote Justice Potter Stewart:  : “I know it when I see it.

fultonschoolsparent
fultonschoolsparent

I had a teacher friend, who regularly had college age student teachers, mention that one of the biggest hurdles was getting those student teachers to dress professionally.  So students aren't the only ones who should be dressed appropriately.  Teachers are also under restrictions and that's how it should be for both students and teachers!  If you want to be taken seriously in the work world, learn early what is appropriate!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Oh good grief, I guess this ditzy blonde missed the discussion about boys wearing their pants below their, er, junk....

Pants Up, Don't Loot !!!

Cinesias
Cinesias

School Uniforms solve this issue.


Next.

Lexi3
Lexi3

Who says school dress codes do not apply to males? Who says males who flash flesh are not distractions to females?


Almost certainly the point of flashing large amounts of skin is to draw attention to that skin. Why shouldn't school administrators limit the distractions? Funny, but the same people who complain about the perceived unfairness of dress codes to girls loudly advocate single sex classrooms and schools, because boys intimidate [distract] girls in class.


Our children were all fortunate to attend private school where dress codes were  vigorously enforced and anyone bothered thereby was free to leave. The high school sends 100% of its graduates to college each  year.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@Cinesias @EdUktr

Hope your son ends up marrying one of her friends. And living in your basement.

Then we'll see how "enlightened" you are.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@EdUktr


Maureen has twins who are in their mid-teens, so I hardly think she is in her seventies.  Don't spread lies.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I don't know - I think there are just as many rules for boys as there are girls - I think girls just run afoul of them more often.  I think young girls believe that they are judged a lot by the way they look and they WANT to dress provocatively.  I don't think a girl should be sent home for blue (or purple) hair, but if she wears a halter top, that is not appropriate.  It is not about creating a distraction - it is about being appropriate.

AtlantaMom
AtlantaMom

@class80olddog

So how about we send home all the boys who are not wearing belts ?   And those boys whose pants are not up to their natural waist line?   That's not appropriate and I find it offensive.