Around the country, there has been a growing uproar around schools banning leggings and it arrived in Chicago this week as Evanston’s Haven Middle School plans to review their dress code later this month. After a fellow writer addressed the debate here, I felt compelled to respond to this topic.
Why are parents angry? They say that banning this type of attire because it’s “distracting to boys” is misogynistic and antiquated.
Let’s step back: Students try out different attire as one of the ways they learn to express themselves. I’m no stranger to that. As someone who floated amongst various groups in high school, I clearly recall experiments where I’d have my “preppy” sweater, rolled khakis and Bass slip-ons one day, then dress in Dr. Martens and a Trent Reznor t-shirt with a thermal underneath the next. It was fascinating and amusing seeing how people responded to different personas, and testing if they even noticed at all.
However, I also remember getting stopped in the hallway, desperately trying to make my arms shorter to ensure my skirt reached down to my fingertips. Boys wearing “Big Johnson” t-shirts had to turn them inside out for the day and caps were stashed in lockers.
So this uproar about how we’re sending the wrong messages to kids about sex and respect? I don’t buy it.
Some schools are clearly botching their messaging on the topic, which should absolutely be called out and corrected. It isn’t about telling girls that their clothing is what makes boys think about sex, or that it’s okay for boys to wear snug pants but that girls cannot.
However, we can promote kids respecting themselves, and understanding that in certain venues, there is a standard of attire required. They will have plenty of time in college to wander to the grocery store in their flannel PJ’s and wear midriff shirts to class.
When things go badly in a school, whether bullying, suicide, violence or any myriad of problems are missed, the teachers and administration are blamed for not addressing the issues.
And yet, here we are: Schools try to enforce the smallest level of decorum and respect, and parents jump in to block it.
My question for parents is this: Which way do you want it?