Kenilworth Jr High in California, Minnetonka High School in Minnesota, and Haven Middle School in Illinois are just a few of the schools that have banned young girls from wearing leggings or yoga pants to school. These schools have required girls who want to wear leggings or yoga pants to also wear fingertip-length shorts, a skirt, or a dress on top. Girls who are seen wearing tight legwear are sent home to change, given a warning, or asked to change into more “appropriate” wear in school (something that happens at BSGE as well). Due to the nature of leggings to accentuate certain body parts, the general reasoning behind this ban is that educators view tight pants as “inappropriate” for school and a disruption to education. Sometimes school officials say that if girls’ clothing is inappropriate it makes it harder for boys to concentrate in school.
The response from parents and administrators vary nationwide; parents of students in Minnetonka High School praise the principal’s ban, describing the trend of leggings as “troubling” and a “bad influence,” whereas the parents of students in Kenilworth Jr High describe the ban as “sexist” and “unfair.” Girls in Haven Middle School protested the ban on March 18th by wearing leggings to school and having over 500 students sign a petition. Although BSGE has not participated in this ban, several students yield strong opinions towards the topic. Natalia B ‘16 says, “It is sexist to prohibit us from wearing leggings. I think the way you dress is a way you express yourself, and that shouldn’t be monitored by a school. Girls should have the freedom to wear what they want to wear.”
In New York City, the Department of Education enforces “an environment conducive to promoting educational excellence with minimum distractions and disruptions of the learning environment.” The official dress code states that underwear must be completely covered by an outer garment. “Brief garments” (such as tube tops, net tops, mini skirts, and spaghetti straps), anything that exposes midriff, and see-through garments are deemed inappropriate. There is nothing here that prohibits leggings or yoga pants. Marika C ‘16 agrees with the DOE dress code’s reasoning and says “In leggings, you’re clothed from your hip to your ankles, so I don’t see anything wrong with that…you’re not showing skin, there’s nothing actually being revealed.”
Even the United States Supreme Court has an opinion about school dress codes. In order to enforce a fair way to establish dress codes or clothing bans, the Supreme Court established a threshold test that focuses not on tight clothing but on political messages. Their threshold test asks: 1) Whether the student intended to convey a particular message and 2) Whether reasonable observers would understand this message. Being a part of the “reasonable observers,” boys in BSGE disagree with the general reasoning behind other schools’ ban on leggings and yoga pants. Socrates C ‘16 says, “I don’t think that it disrupts education because it’s up to the guy to not be distracted by a girl and her clothes.”
Instead of outright banning tight legwear from school, Marika C, ‘16 suggests an alternative approach, “I think that respect for women should be enforced, not women being banned from wearing whatever they want so that guys can act the way they do. It’s putting girls lower than we already are because we have to stop doing what we do so that boys don’t act a certain way.”
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