News flash: Sending 70 girls home from school is a good way to distract boys

Apr 19, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. ET
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Will dress code violations never cease? Apparently not. Just ask the 70 girls who were sent home from Lord Grey secondary school in England for their scandalous skirts and too-tight pants after a uniform inspection on the school's first day of the new term. You can take a peep at the skirts in question, and don't worry, it's incredibly safe for work. We're talking an inch or two too short, not something you'd find at Frederick's.

Even so, rules are rules, and the written ones say, "Skirts at the knee or else," while the unwritten ones say, "Boys will be boys — go home before they look up your skirt on the stairs."

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That, apparently, was a big concern for Lord Grey's head teacher, who expressed that sending almost 100 minors home from school in the middle of the day to empty houses was a protective move, adding that the last thing anyone wants is boys looking up girls' skirts, particularly on stairwells, which are known bastions of sin.

And hey, there's a little sense to that: Looking up a girl's skirt is invasive and rude and gross and unacceptable. Which is why, when you catch someone doing it, you tell them to knock it off and remind them that school is for learning and not perving on people. If it's the last thing you want, then punish boys who go around peeping up skirts (which, for the record, can be done no matter the length of the hemline), not preemptively punishing girls for those transgressions.

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One of the girls who was sent home pointed out the disconnect between administrators emphasizing the importance of using school time to learn and do work and then shunting a huge portion of the student body home over the inch or two of space between a hemline and a knee.

It is a pretty big disconnect, and it's a familiar one. It's typically the go-to when a school gets attention for its reactions to dress code violations. It has nothing to do with sexism or gender, they're always quick to point out. It's just that they react to the possibility of one gender (boys) maybe, potentially, being sidetracked by a bare knee that they "fix" the distraction by punishing the other gender (girls) and couch it in sexist language. See the difference? They are safeguarding education. They're just doing it for half of the students at the other half's expense.

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And in this case, as in practically every other, that particular argument falls apart into the flaming heap of garbage it is, because you just can't pretend you're trying to cut back on distraction and then do something that causes an even bigger one.

To wit: Dressing kids in neon sweatsuits, forcing students to kneel in front of you while you measure their clothing, arresting them in the middle of class for their pants or performing a disappearing act with a huge chunk of the students, whose absence will surely be noted and then speculated about during what otherwise might have been a distraction-free discussion about The Old Man and the Sea.

Dress codes are not likely to go away, and neither are dress code violations. Fine. But can we at least come up with a marginally believable excuse for sending girls home or to detention? Stop trying to make "because it's a distraction" happen. It's not going to happen.

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Definition of boy
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