School tells girls: ‘Please leave something to the imagination.’ How about please leave girls alone?

A South Carolina high school bumbled into an area I wish schools would leave alone – how young women dress.

No, this is not another crazy dress code policy. (I am still shaking my head over the Kentucky high school that told girls they could not show collarbone.)

This is a homecoming poster designed to deliver a witty message about appropriate dance attire. No matter intent, the implied message – that girls need to cover up for fear of discombobulating their male classmates – is wrong. Schools have to stop holding girls responsible for what boys do or think.

I have run several photos of perfectly reasonable prom dresses that somehow discomforted an adult or two. We once believed a flash of female ankle would distract and disturb young men. But ankles and knees and upper arms have increasingly been bared without riots in school hallways.

Hardly a week passes without a social media firestorm over some 16-year-old girl somewhere being suspended or sent home for something thousands of other kids wear every day. Dress codes tend to be inconsistently enforced and consistently directed at girls.

Don’t schools and school officials have better things to do than measure hemlines or count holes in jeans?

Here is the high school poster provoking social media criticism this week. What do you think?

homecoming

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32 comments
heyteacher
heyteacher

Personally I think defining what is inappropriate makes things worse -- our students love to try to beat the system by wearing tank tops that are almost but not quite 3 inches across (as is the rule). My school states  "semi-formal attire required" -- and then they deal with the few students who refuse to comply on an individual basis. We have more of an issue with students wanting to wear jeans and t shirts, though than skimpy dresses. I'm sure that varies by demographic. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

"No matter intent, the implied message – that girls need to cover up for fear of discombobulating their male classmates – is wrong. Schools have to stop holding girls responsible for what boys do or think."


Oh, puhleaze - the whole point of teenage girls underdressing is to make boys think.  The gentle suggestion is entirely appropriate and correct.  The fact that it needs to be made at all speaks to prior experience and a lack of good taste and judgement on the part of these young ladies' mothers.

Antagonist
Antagonist

Appropriate. What happened to that word in all walks of life in choosing what clothing to wear? Since polite society seems to have been abandoned, this, too, seems to have become obsolete. Both need to be reinstated.

DJA2
DJA2

The problem is in how the schools address the reason for the dress code. It is not about "distracting" anyone. At my school, I explain to the girls (and the boys who violate dress code) that school is their job. I then explain that they have to think what kind of job are they going to dressed the way they are & what image are they choosing to project with the way they are dressed. If their bellies are showing or their shorts are super short or their pants are sagging, what will people think or assume about them. We have dress codes for jobs, highschoolers need to learn that that's the reality of the world.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

Science tells us that girls mature (physically, emotionally and mentally) faster than boys.  Why, then, is it wrong to ask girls to dress appropriately when we know that boys are less mature and more likely to act on impulse? 


Dressing as you please is an adult privilege.  Most of us dress appropriately for the time/venue/activity.  Why are we giving this same right to kids who are malleable in the hands of media images, thinking they will make the appropriate decision? They won't.  It will be what ever the "star" of the moment is wearing - whether appropriate or not.   


When I taught, I never counted the holes in jeans.  I watched for things that cause a class disruption.  To ask kids to dress conservatively for school is not too much.  If you can't guide your child to right choices for the situation, then uniforms are the way to go. 

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

I would support school uniforms in secondary school, so educators could try to focus on academics instead of measuring hem lines.  Schools cannot be the social arbiter of such varying parental opinions about the socialization of teenagers.  If girls are showing up to prom looking like hookers, I would just stop having a public school prom. Parent groups can arrange their own proms and supervise them as they see fit.  School personnel are usually fairly conservative, including me, and often not in tune with what is socially acceptable currently and don't want to be.  Let schools be about academics and stop trying to be everything else.  We are no longer a homogenous social group and there is probably no prom that would please everyone. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Young people of today are inundated with images in the media that can best be described as "soft porn".  The decorum of even 20-30 years ago has been abolished.  And it is not just young people who are guilty of these fashion faux pas.  Don't believe me?  Google "people of Walmart".  A few years ago, my employer had to implement a dress code because idiots were coming to work in an office environment dressed in sweats.

We tell young men to pull their pants up and we are called "racist".  We tell young women "don't dress like a common street walker" and we are called "sexist".   No, it is not.  It is called taking a little pride in yourself and respecting others.


redweather
redweather

Some of the female attire I see on the college campus where I teach is . . . uh . . .  kind of distracting. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather 

As a female professor, I often wondered how my male colleagues could keep their minds on their lectures when the young, nubile, female students sat there in their semi-obscene outfits, crossing and uncrossing their legs. The guys just slouched there in their baggy jeans and tattoos.

 

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @redweather The guys don't even seem to pay attention to those "nubile, female students" no matter how "semi-obscene" their outfits. It's weird. I'm thinking the Internet's free and open distribution of everything has made reckless eyeballing obsolete.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf 

I guess when all the other female students walk around like that the novelty disappears. (What always seemed rather funny was the first really cold day when some of them dressed as usual, and then huddled in class trying to get warm.)

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@OriginalProf @redweather Whoa!  Sounds like you're trying to hold those young women responsible for what their male professors might think! NOT COOL.  

I had no idea that you were just another tool of the patriarchy! 

CSpinks
CSpinks

The late Edith Head, a Hollywood designer of more-than-some note, was wiser than I suspected.


Her quote presented in fine print on the poster in question strikes at the heart of this matter.

newsphile
newsphile

I personally don't see anything wrong with the clothing in the  photos shown, but I have seen some clothing on young students that I felt was very inappropriate.  I do find it interesting that it's often the mothers who approve of and purchase revealing attire for daughters and fathers are much less approving, but tend to go along.  I don't believe a guy has the right to unwanted advances no matter how the girl is dressed.  On the other hand, why would a young lady feel the need to dress in provocative clothing while in middle and high school?  Is it a matter of too little self esteem on the part of the young lady or is the mother trying to relive her life through her child's?

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

When the US changes into a Muslim dominated society, this perceived problem will be solved along with the gun problem because everyone will have a AK 47 

Edna Pontellier
Edna Pontellier

I think a lot of people want to make dress codes about sex, but I prefer to focus on the idea that not every item of clothing is appropriate for every venue. We dress appropriately for the places we go out of respect for the events we attend and the people with whom we attend them. We do not wear running shorts to synagogue. We do not wear scuba gear to restaurants. We don't wear prom dresses to work our shifts at Starbucks. Regardless of our gender, we shouldn't wear micro-shorts or muscle shirts, etc., while at school because that is an inappropriate venue for such clothing. We're talking about basic rules of civil socialization here, and I don't see anything wrong with insisting that students respect the institution where they are provided a free education every day.

bu2
bu2

@Edna Pontellier

Well said.  Its about what is appropriate in the circumstance.  I'm old enough to remember back in 1970 when it was a big deal that girls were first allowed to wear pants to school instead of having to wear a skirt or dress (and this was NOT in the south).  Just because what is appropriate has evolved doesn't mean the concept has disappeared.

CaptainX
CaptainX

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this poster and the request for students to dress in a modest manner.  If they would dress appropriately, this kind of notice wouldn't be necessary.

Astropig
Astropig

@CaptainX


Agree. The poster is fine. Thumbs up to the author.Some people take everything too darn seriously.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

And here is a girl who was not allowed to enter her school dance without covering her shoulders.(No idea why as this dress would have passed muster at a convent.) Her comment: "Maybe instead of teaching girls that they should cover themselves up, we should be teaching boys that we're not sex objects that they can look at."

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@FirstDerivative: But the kids getting in trouble are not half naked. Here is the Kentucky student who was sent to the office because she was showing her collarbone.

We have kindergartners getting in trouble for their spaghetti strap summer shirts.


Astropig
Astropig

I'm not nearly as discombobulated with the cut of their clothes as I am the alarming number of young women now sporting their "body art"- tattoos. Seriously, I've seen girls headed to the prom with visible ink that was in such poor taste that I wondered if they had a part time job as a carnival side show act.


Here's your fortune,young readers-Develop an easy, painless way to permanently remove these ugly, unattractive tramp stamps and when these women finally realize how trashy and disgusting they make them look and you'll be livin' in the big house on the hill.

RolleTheorem
RolleTheorem

You absolutely CANNOT allow anyone to arrive in the classroom half naked.

Some of these koocie shorts and spaghetti tops that some of our young women want to come to class in is near to disgraceful.  They can either cover up or don't come to class. They do have a choice.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

because guys showing too much skin is so common....said no one ever

BearCasey
BearCasey

I must confess that in my sixties, nothing much outrages me anymore.  Back in my teens, if I had the hots for a girl, it didn't take clothing or lack thereof to inflame passion.  Back when I was Dean of Students at Chattahoochee High School, I'd occasionally get dragged into refereeing a "dress code violation."  I'm glad that I don't have to do that any longer.

Calliope_
Calliope_

Maureen's right. Girls raised by single parents without discipline—or any inclination to restrain even their most beastly instincts—should be allowed to outrage the rest of us.

That's after all what one's school years are all about.

cyadra
cyadra

Seriously? South Carolina has the 9th highest occurance of teen pregnancy, and Georgia is right behind them.


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@cyadra Do you think dress codes play a role? 


When I did a feature story on school dress codes a few years ago, I found they were more common in in the south than the northeast or Pacific coast. 


In addition, teen pregnancy rates have fallen in the last 20 years -- during the same period in which many schools loosened their dress codes.


In 2013, there were 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, or 273,105 babies born to females in this age group.[1] Nearly eighty-nine percent of these births occurred outside of marriage.[1] The 2013 teen birth rate indicates a  decline of ten percent from 2012 when the birth rate was 29.4 per 1,000.[1] The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013. 


http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html


cyadra
cyadra

@MaureenDowney @cyadra Is it the determining factor, no...but it does play a part. Each school and community is different, common sense no longer prevails in our world anymore, let alone data backed decision making.


Statistics show the one thing that is the largest common factor for the states with the most amount of teen pregnancies is that the states require abstinence education. Teenagers who received a comprehensive sex education course were 60% less likely to get pregnant than someone who received abstinence education. The only state that bucked that trend was Nevada.


http://mic.com/articles/98886/the-states-with-the-highest-teenage-birth-rates-have-one-thing-in-common


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Maureen, I don't think it is directed at girls because it is feared that the boys will lose control.  I think we have too many parents of girls who think their daughter is the "cutest thing" in inappropriate clothing, such as dresses with holes cut out or jeans with many holes in them in certain places.


Young women AND men need to learn appropriate attire in public.  It seems that many parents have abdicated their responsibility to teach their children to "leave something to the imagination" and "pull up those &*%$ pants!"


When your student goes to school looking like she is ready for a pole dance, or your son lets everyone see whatever is under his jeans (or Not under his jeans) it is YOU, the PARENT who has a problem.  Unfortunately, the schools are tasked with it.