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Haven Middle School Bans Leggings & Yoga Pants -- Too Distracting For Boys

Columnist Christine Wolf wonders if this is where the administrators' attention should be focused.

Photo: CMGDIGITAL.com
Photo: CMGDIGITAL.com
[This column originally appeared on March 17th, 2014]

Let’s talk about leggings, shall we?


They’re a controversial topic all across America. From Massachusetts, Oklahoma, California and beyond, the debate rages about leggings, yoga pants, tights or any other snugnitude encasing the lower half of teenage girls. It strikes fear in the hearts of U.S. school administrators. and now the debate’s landed here in Evanston at Haven Middle School.

 

I think I’ve heard most arguments about leggings: They’re too distracting to the boys. Inappropriate. Unbecoming. They create a lustful atmosphere infecting society and are, in some countries, considered illegal.

 

And while I particularly love this Utah mom’s approach to lighten the mood, I doubt this writer smiled as she wrote about the controversy.

 

Earlier this week, I learned that Haven Middle School students are planning a protest against a ban on leggings. A Haven parent forwarded this email, sent to Haven Middle School principal Kathy Roberson on Tuesday, March 11th:

 

Good morning Ms. Roberson,

We are writing with a concern regarding the revised dress policy.   Our daughter came home last night upset that in addition to leggings and shorts, the girls are now also not allowed to wear yoga pants at school.  

 

The reason, she explained, is that these items of clothing are "too distracting" for the boys.  

 

This policy clearly shifts the blame for boy's behavior or lack of academic concentration, directly onto the girls.

 

We are frankly shocked at this antiquated and warped message that is being sent to the kids.  Under no circumstances should girls be told that their clothing is responsible for boy's bad behaviors.  This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men.  It also sends the message to boys that their behaviours 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 to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.

 

We really hope that you will consider the impact of these policies and how they contribute to rape culture.  Girls should be able to feel safe and unashamed about what they wear.  And boys need to be corrected and taught when they harass girls.

 

Certainly comfortable clothing like yoga pants and leggings, which entirely cover up girl's legs, are not the problem but the mindset of girls being responsible for sexual harassment or "distraction" is.

 

We are including some articles on the topic.  

 

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0212/What-s-wrong-with-yoga-pants

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/leggings-ban-kenilworth-junior-high-california_n_3046043.html

 

We look forward to your response,

Juliet Bond, LCSW,  Professor at Columbia College

Kevin Bond, Teacher at New Trier

 

Personally, I think this ban is ridiculous. It’s obnoxious. It’s insulting. It’s lazy and it’s offensive.

 

I have a middle school daughter. She and her friends wear leggings. And yoga pants. And clothes that don’t always please me. Am I a bad mother for letting my daughter out of the house wearing a shirt that doesn’t cover her bottom? Possibly. Does it confound me when young men walk around wearing pants around their knees or when a therapist wears a purple streak in her hair or when a teacher wears a diamond stud in her nose? It does, but only because those aren’t my styles and it’s my issue, not theirs.

 

What kind of confusing message are we sending to girls – especially young girls who see public figures (including the First Lady) wearing leggings and yoga pants and whose parents are usually the ones purchasing the clothes and whose male counterparts aren’t told how to dress their bodies but only what not to wear on them? Give me a break.

 

However, my eyes are wide open. I see where the concern comes from. Just imagine you’re a public school principal managing dress code policies. A Google search of leggings just might lead you to this Facebook page, called Leggings Lovers, and BAM: You’ve sent your leggings-banning-letter to parents before you’ve made your morning announcements or time for the Pledge of Allegiance (except, of course, if you’re in Hawaii, Iowa, Oklahoma, Vermont or Wyoming, in which case you’re dealing with a different type of controversy involving personal rights surrounding fabrics of the red-white-blue color scheme).

 

As the mother of two middle school-aged children I say: If you truly want your students to become successful, respectful members of society, use your time and resources more effectively:

--Fight for causes that actually mean something.

--Figure out a way to notice when a child stops going to the lunchroom because he’s having difficulty navigating the social waters between the “popular” table and the table of friends he’s comfortable with.

--Declare a zero-tolerance policy on bullying behavior and enforce consequences for offenders.

--Assign one dedicated faculty or staff member to each child so someone notices declining self-esteem, withdrawal from favorite activities, multiple absences or uncharacteristic behavior.

--Shore up cracks the kids slip through by rewarding positive behavior and building up self-esteem.

--Spend less time on ridiculous matters like a fashion fad and more time on helping students adjust to the middle school environment.

--Make their academics interesting and rewarding.

--Help kids maintain a healthy focus on their own strengths rather than others’ weaknesses.

--Assist students with the critical transition to high school.

 

And remember: By the time the ink finally dries on your school district’s approval to ban leggings, your students will be long gone, wearing baggy pants or boxer shorts and wondering why you focused on the outfits rather than the outcome.

What do you think? Should schools ban students from wearing tight-fitting leggings and yoga pants?

Christine Wolf is a freelance writer for Patch.com. You can find more of her writing at www.christinewolf.com.
Dave W. April 02, 2014 at 02:19 AM
Exactly, Rachel... Humans have not evolved so far yet that the differences betwixt the genders are no longer necessary or subconsciously hardwired for that matter. It doesn't make females wrong for having their bodies or males for theirs. We are meant to look, appreciate and in later stages, personally enjoy the things we find attractive in other humans. When we dress we consciously (usually) make decisions about HOW we want to represent ourselves. We COULD dress dowdy or demure...or stylish or sexy...anything. WE make that CHOICE. To any parent that tries to escape the responsibility for how their child dresses...well, is that a shock? How many parents nowadays think they are 'done' when their kid is sixteen, or fourteen, or twelve?! You know the phrases when their kid gets in trouble "Well, they are "X" years old...what are you going to do?" or "She is "X" already, I give up!" or "Once they hit their teens, they are who they are..." or just keep going. Only you are NOT done. YOU had them. You didn't give them up for adoption...you still get a tax write off for them, if nothing else. You OWE it to society to keep raising YOUR kids until adulthood (theirs, or yours, whichever comes last). So yes...guys look at girls in tight clothing. We are SUPPOSED to...if not, nature wouldn't make us react like that to YOUR action. If the boys all walked around with no shirts all day, (socially acceptable for a boy to do that, RIGHT?) because hey, he is just being comfortable...tell us that wouldn't distract the girls...heck with if they wore spandex pants. Girls WANT the attention, and boys are happy to give it to them. If the pants are so comfy, do like girls in the 80's did, wear a long shirt or sweater. I remember hating it when girls did that...what a waste of tight pants, I used to think. I LOVE that women wear them everywhere now...WITHOUT covering up...awesome for ME. HOWEVER...whenever I see a girl high school age or lower, I cringe. Because I'm no longer a hormone driven teenage boy. I'm a parent. Because I NOW know it sexualizes the wearer. It would if it was a boy for that matter, if that was the fashion. Teens (or younger, sigh...) will find ways to find each other cute at any age. Letting them move that into looking 'sexy' is just a dumb mistake. Pretending that such clothing is NOT doing that is exponentially so.
Why? April 02, 2014 at 05:16 PM
It doesn't have to do with boys. It doesn't have to do just with transparent leggings. The fact is- Leggings are not pants! Leggings are not to be worn as pants because it completely shows the outline of the butt. A long shirt should be worn over them. Mothers and girls need to wake up! Search the google or Facebook images "leggings are not pants" to see his ridiculous people look in them! (From a woman, mother of two)
Pat Martin April 03, 2014 at 04:01 PM
What a lot of hooha for nothing! Leggings, especially the cheao kind, are like panty hose or tights. They go UNDER something. It is a liberal policy that allows students to wear longer shirts over leggings. Come on, baby boomers, get back to parenting and stop giving your little darlings the "rights" to unearned benefits.
jürgen April 05, 2014 at 03:19 PM
The rule applies only to leggings. http://haven.district65.net/Dress_Code No one is obliged to wear anything below shirts/skirts/dresses according to this rule. Quite transparent nylons are neither affected, i.e. remain allowed. By the way, if someone believes "leggings are not pants" and "go under something", then she/he should admit that nylons indeed are produced to attract views. Objections to going topless are also not mentioned in the rules. As it is a middle school and winter, students may not have yet taken advantage of these opportunities.
Jake Brockton April 15, 2014 at 10:07 PM
@ChristineWolf, if you want administrators and principals to address the 'important' matters that you listed, don't you think they could if they weren't having to address "behavior" issues of their students because parents don't know how to address their own child's behavior starting at home? Admin & Principals could focus more on the areas of improvement then if students had more respect for one and other and acceptable moral behavior in school. Hey, we were all young once, and our hormones were kicking too at one time or another in school - but you kept it in check because if your grades weren't good or you got in trouble, whoa once your parents found out! Not today though! It's never your 'Johnny' or your 'Suzie' that is the problem! Wake up parents - too many of you suck at your parenting skills! I am not a teacher, nor do I work in the school system, however, on a regular basis I see the ineptness of today's parents on the whole. And it crosses race, religion and wealth lines. It doesn't discriminate. Be a parent first to your child!

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