Most schools across the United States have a dress code policy. While some of these policies are clear-cut and strict (for example, students must wear khaki pants and a solid colored polo shirt), others are more relaxed. Others are open to interpretation. (Some schools ban short dresses, short skirts, and short shorts, but what is short?) However, in an effort to make its policy crystal clear, one North Carolina school district tried to ban skinny jeans and leggings, for all students. Why? To help alleviate a bullying problem.
Jeanette Nichols, a school board member in the New Hanover County School District, proposed the skinny jean and legging ban after a plus size student was bullied for wearing the tight fitting garments, according to TODAY. The school seemingly agreed with Nichols, and responded by drafting a policy change. However, once the revised policy was shared on Twitter — the policy that reads "No leggings, ‘skinny jeans’ or other excessively tight fitting pants unless covered by a top or dress to the appropriate length. (The length of the top or dress shall cover the posterior area in its entirety.)" — students and their parents were understandably upset. Because regardless of how well-intentioned this proposal may have been, it is shockingly sexist, and it is creating a bigger issue. It creates an environment where bullies are empowered, and it creates a culture that places the burden of bullying on the victim. Nichols did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
As Chris Furner, who has a daughter in the district, explained in an interview on TODAY, “it doesn't make sense that we're gonna try, you know, to use this as a tool to solve the bullying problem."
And it seems many agree with Furner, and took to Twitter to voice their concerns.
What’s more, this policy implies that if a girl or woman wears a particular type of clothing, she is attracting the wrong type of attention and “asking for it” (be it bullying, harassment, and/or physical or sexual abuse), but this mentality is dangerous and it is wrong. The school district should be bolstering the confidence of their students — not shaming them. It is the responsibility of adults to explain to kids that no one is ever “asking for” anything with the clothing they wear. Adults should be focusing on sending out positive body messages and not negative ones (like this).
So, while I understand Nichols concern, and I actually applaud her for attempting to make a difference, this is not the change New Hanover needs. This is not how you “stop bullying.” Hopefully this policy will lead to much-needed conversation about victim blaming, a culture of sexual shame as it surrounds dress codes, and how adults can empower young people.