Halifax School Imposes Discriminatory Dress Code on Female Students

A public junior high school has banned students from wearing leggings as pants. Did they go too far?

By Karen Green

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Photography from iStockphoto.com

When I was in grade eight, I was sent home from school for wearing a Bon Jovi concert t-shirt that shouted, in big, bold letters, “We’re Back Kickin Ass.” Outraged as I acted upon my dismissal, the truth, of course, was that I knew the t-shirt was inflammatory and inappropriate. So I went home, changed, and enjoyed my newfound popularity as a rebel for the rest of the year. But I hated school dress codes as a student, and I don’t feel much better about them now, as a parent. I wonder just where a public institution that minors are by law forced to attend, get the power to also dictate what those minors must wear.

This week, a Halifax public junior high school has banned students from wearing leggings as pants. Yoga pants, they state, fall into a grey area. This means that unless the tops the students are wearing fall long enough to cover their “front and backside,” magically transforming the (unacceptable) leggings into (acceptable) tights, then they are inappropriate—and the student will, presumably, be sent home to change or punished in some other way. Among the reasons that the school gives for this change to the dress code so late in the school year is that the leggings are “distracting.”

Distracting to what or whom, exactly?

Well, distracting to the learning process, the school claims. A claim so threadbare that it is certainly more offensive and revealing than a pair of leggings on a 14-year-old girl. Until the school can provide research and proof that girls who do not wear leggings perform better than girls who do wear leggings, I’m not buying it.

The real answer, I think, is distracting to the boys. Possibly even the male teachers. That seems a more likely answer to me. And a much more disturbing one.

It is the same argument that fundamentalists the world over use to keep their women covered up and devoid of personal choice or freedoms. It is the same argument used by pseudo-feminists like Camille Paglia, who claim that women that dare to tempt boys get what they deserve. It’s not a leap—who exactly gets punished when the boys are distracted at Eastern Passage Education Centre in Halifax? The girls.

I may not be a fan of leggings—any more so than I am a fan of the poseur hip-hop underwear-hanging-out look that the female students say the boys are still allowed to sport (a boy’s ass being so much less distracting than a girl’s), but I am much less a fan of misogyny, dictatorship, fundamentalism, and discrimination. And those things, of course, are much, much harder to cover up.

Do you think that schools should be allowed to ban leggings? Are female students being treated unfairly?

Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005. She is thrilled to be a part of canadianfamily.ca.

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