I’m always seeing stories online about schools with quirky dress codes that ban certain very specific articles of clothing because “they could be distracting.”
Almost all of the time, the focus of these bans is on girls’ attire: short skirts and shorts, for instance, or the baring of navels or shoulders, or, as occurred recently at Haven Middle School in Evanston, IL., leggings and yoga pants. A junior high in California and a high school in Boston have also banned the trendy styles.
The prohibition in Evanston, a Chicago suburb, has some parents there up in arms, or perhaps legs.
“We are frankly shocked at this antiquated and warped message that is being sent to the kids,” parents wrote in a letter to the principal. “This policy clearly shifts the blame for boy’s behavior or lack of academic concentration, directly onto the girls.”
I absolutely agree, assuming we’re not talking about the leggings and yoga pants that are virtually transparent. That would clearly be inappropriate for school because you’d be able to see the Miley Cyrus tongue tattoos the girls had on their butts.
These stories seem to pop up every spring. Maybe it’s a knee jerk reaction to suddenly seeing kids without potholder-like down coats.
In fact, last year around this time I wrote about Readington Middle School in Pennsylvania, and its ban on strapless gowns from the end-of-year dinner-dance because they were “too distracting for boys.” After I made a joke about what exactly would be holding up a strapless gown on a middle school girl, I got serious:
“I thought we were on our way toward getting past the idea of blaming the behavior of men on the ‘flirtatious’ outfits women are wearing.”
Here’s the thing: the school administrators who institute these kinds of bans do not do so for the sake of propriety, or for the safety of their students, or because of any sort of fashion sense. And they certainly don’t to it to increase the boys’ test scores, even though those would naturally soar once all the distractions of girls’ sexy clothing was removed from the room.
No, these officials do this for one reason only: because they are lazy. It’s not inappropriate attire they want to avoid, it’s doing their jobs.
I will now prove my hypothesis by bringing up a rare incidence in which it was a boy making the fashion faux pas.
School officials in Buncombe County, NC have told 9-year-old Grayson Bruce that he cannot bring his backpack to school. They did this to “address a situation that had created a disruption in the classroom.”
You may think that perhaps Grayson’s backpack contained some really stinky cheese, or possibly a weapon of mass destruction. But that is not the case. It wasn’t what was in the backpack that was causing the disruption, it was what was on the backpack.
My Little Pony is a line of toys, videos and other paraphernalia that has been around for a long time. My daughter Casey loved them when she was around that age. And although the company behind it, Hasbro, puts My Little Pony in the “toys and games for girls” section of its website, there is a growing population of “Bronies,”…grown men who love My Little Pony. They have conventions and everything. Seven thousand people showed up for one recently, mostly, I hope, because they couldn’t get tickets for Comicon.
But Bronies may or may not be a topic for another day, not to mention a panel discussion at a future gathering of psychologists. Let’s get back to Grayson Bruce and his backpack. Can you guess why school officials thought it might cause a disruption?
And you know what? I’m sure they’re right. They probably think that a 9-year-boy who wears a My Little Pony backpack is asking for it, just like the folks in Evanston think that a girl who wears tight leggings is asking for it, although the “it” may be different.
Nobody is asking for anything here, except me. I’m asking for some common sense. The girls in Evanston are wearing leggings because they’re a hot trend and they think they look good in them. And Grayson Bruce has a My Little Pony backpack because he likes My Little Pony. Do the officials in Buncombe County really think Grayson says to his mother as he leaves for school each morning, “Where’s my backpack, mom? I sure hope I get beat up today?”
It’s time for these officials to just do their friggin’ jobs and make sure there is no “inappropriate behavior” regardless of what people are wearing. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a horrible idea if a parent suggested to his or her 14-year-old daughter that she might want to consider a slightly longer top to go with the leggings that clearly delineate her ass, of if Grayson’s mom pointed out to her son the possible consequences of his taste in luggage. “It’s your choice,” she could say, “but the design of your backpack really doesn’t go with black and blue.”
In other words, I’m against schools censoring self-expression and I’m for parents offering their kids some guidance.
See you soon.
P.S. After the book bag ban caused a firestorm on social media, Buncombe County officials relented with a Facebook posting about some kind of “safety transition” gobbledegook and said that Grayson could bring his My Little Pony backpack to school.
I do not know if he wears leggings.