Friday, November 22, 2019
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Opaque leggings now OK at Evanston Twp.

Evanston Township High School, near the campus of Northwestern University in Chicago’s near-north suburbs, will open for classes on Monday, and students will have a new dress code that has been responsive to their needs in that they’re now allowed to wear leggings, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The old dress code prohibited leggings, but it became clear that girls whose bodies were more developed and African-American girls were being cited for dress code violations more often and for the same exact clothes that white students whose bodies weren’t as developed were getting away with.

Staff shall enforce the dress code consistently and in a manner that does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size. …

Now OK: Fitted pants, including opaque leggings, yoga pants, and skinny jeans, …

And please don’t think this is about race or even about unequal punishment; it’s not. Yes, the rules and laws anywhere should be applied equally to all students, regardless of their race or status as a prepubescent girl.

But this is about high school boys. The school is required to provide for them an environment conducive to learning as well. If they can’t concentrate in class because some girl is wearing leggings, should the school be obligated to make that girl stop wearing leggings to class? Should they counsel the boy? How should such a situation be handled?

Think about it like this: If someone wears a shirt with a racist slogan on it, like “White Power,” or an anti-Semitic slogan, like “blood and soil,” should the school prevent them from wearing that, and why? Is it because the message distracts or somehow impedes the academic progress of black or Jewish students?

(The new dress code continues to prohibit such slogans on clothing, which is a good call.)

But if a boy has trouble concentrating just because some girl is wearing leggings, I feel that imposing a dress code restriction on girls puts them in a subservient role to the boys when they should be considered equal in the eyes of the school. Rather, the boys should learn to study and work side by side with girls who feel free to dress as they wish, as long as standard community guidelines of decency are maintained.

In 2014, a group of parents from a nearby middle school opposed the banning of leggings. “This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men,” the Tribune quoted them as saying. “It also sends the message to boys that their behaviors are excusable, or understandable given what the girls are wearing. And if the sight of a girl’s leg is too much for boys at Haven [Middle School] to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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