A Franklin Township Community School in Indianapolis gave 12-year-old Morgan Hull a day of in-school suspension, followed by two days of regular suspension, all because the jeans she wore to school were deemed "too tight." However, according to the school's own handbook, Hull should have been given a warning before any direct action was taken, and then there's also the point that her parents weren't really violating the rules to begin with. They were not leggings, but rather jeans that you'd find stocked on most store shelves.
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The problem here wasn't that the school was being selective about how it enforced its handbook rules or even the fact that it wasn't even following the proper rules/protocol. No.
The problem is the lesson the school is sending with its actions in sending Hull home for a couple of days. What the school is essentially saying is that its need to police Hull's body (via her clothing choices) trumps her right to an education. That as a female being targeted by the school's policies — because, let's be honest, when was the last time a school sent a boy home for violating a dress code — Hull is learning that it is her job to dress in a way to dissuade boys from being distracted, rather than boys needing to learn how to act/react appropriately in public.
And this isn't anything new. Schools around the country have been perpetuating this lesson constantly. There are rules over the length of shorts and shirts in the warmer months and the tightness of pants and coverage of bums in the colder ones.
Girls now not only need to worry about whether their homework is done and whether they're properly prepared for a test, but they also need to concern themselves with whether their clothes are too distracting for the boys. This sets them up for a lifetime of worrying if their actions and choices may influence the way men treat them. We should instead be teaching our boys impulse control and respect, but apparently that's too difficult, and robbing a young woman of her educational opportunities for a few days is easier.
Unfortunately girls are learning these lessons at younger ages, as their behavior and wardrobes are being policed and criticized, beginning at infancy in some cases. Society already sends enough sexist messages to kids, and especially to girls, that schools do not need to add to the pile-on. Withholding education, as what happened in Hull's case, sets a dangerous pattern, one that teaches girls that their worth and value are tied to how they look. That is simply not the case.
When it comes to clothes and schools, the rules should be simple: Will this outfit impede the student's own ability to learn by either hindering movement or being a distraction to themselves? If not, then move along, and let's spend the time worrying about the lessons we're teaching our children.
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