Are school uniforms good or bad? Recently, school dress codes have become a gender equality and “modesty” issue in many schools throughout the US and the United Kingdom. However, eliminating traditionally “female” articles of clothing like skirts and citing “modesty” has some students and parents in an uproar.
Skirts seem to be the hot topic of conversation in all of these uniform debates. According to The Guardian, 40 secondary schools across England have banned skirts. Many of these schools claim that requiring the same uniform (shirts and pants) for everyone is more inclusive and gender-neutral, while other schools have deemed skirts “undignified and embarrassing.” And earlier this, Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego made national headlines for prohibiting girls from wearing skirts.
But many students and parents don’t agree, claiming that if a truly gender-neutral uniform policy were in place all students would be able to choose between uniform skirts or pants, regardless of gender. In the midst of the #metoo movement opponents also claim that these policies largely and unfairly target girls. Insinuating that only the attire of female students is “immodest” or “distracting” leaves many crying sexism.
Carrie Wilhite, a parent at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego that issued the ban told Today, “The skirt and pants thing isn’t even the real issue. The real issue is that girls should have the ability to choose their clothing and be respected enough to make the choice and handle it at the best of their ability at the age they are.”
A judge in North Carolina ruled on the flip-side of the issue in early 2019. A group of female students, tired of not being allowed to wear pants to school, started a petition that ultimately ended up in court. With the help of the ACLU of North Carolina, the girls petitioned the court to hear its case. Female students wanted the choice of wearing pants, skirts or shorts. The judge ruled in favor of the female students.
“The skirts requirement causes the girls to suffer a burden the boys do not, simply because they are female,” Judge Malcolm J. Howard wrote in his ruling.
As schools grapple with inclusion the dress code issue will surely remain a hot topic across the globe. While the importance of inclusion cannot be denied, the issue of sexism cannot be ignored. Opponents of restrictive dress codes are asking that all students be offered equal choices.