A fifteen-year-old girl in the United Kingdom was recently sent home from school after her teachers decided her pants were “too tight,” renewing debate about sexism in school dress codes.
Eleventh-grader Harriet Dale was one of a group of 10 female students who had been singled out by teachers at Trentham High School in Stoke-on-Trent, England for dress code infractions at the start of the school year. Dale said she was told her pants were unsuitable, although other female students wearing the same pants were allowed to enter the school. She said that she was singled out because her legs are larger. Dale said that teachers told her she could either go home and change or be put in isolation.
“People were deliberately picked out. I was with a girl wearing exactly the same pair of trousers but, because I have slightly larger legs than her, I was told my trousers were too tight and that I had to go home and change. It’s really uncomfortable to think you could be walking around the corridors and teachers will be looking you up and down. I’m not the only person who feels that way. I know I’ve got slightly bigger legs than some people, it doesn’t need pointing out,” said Dale.
Helen Dale, Harriet’s mother, argued that as her daughter became more concerned over the fit of her pants, her academic work could suffer in the process, reports Euan McLelland for The Daily Mail.
Female students worldwide are more commonly required to change the way they dress to avoid distracting their male peers, and advocates say that as a result girls become more self-conscious and spend too much time worrying about their appearance. A similar incident happened in Alabama when a sophomore female was sent home for wearing leggings. After learning of the disciplinary action, her mother argued that the school put more emphasis on the education of male students than it did female students.
Skirts were recently banned at Dale’s school after headmistress Dr. Rowena Blencowe said they “embarrassed” male staff members. While skirts can be measured by length, the fit of a pair of pants is left up to interpretation by staff members, and left Dale feeling insecure about her body type, reports Brinton Parker for PopSugar. In response to her banning of skirts at the school, Blencowe said: “It’s not pleasant for male members of staff and students. The girls have to walk up stairs and sit down, and it’s a complete distraction.”
Meanwhile, the headmistress stands behind her actions, arguing that 10 students is a small representation of the total student body of 750, writes Samantha Cowen for Yahoo News.
“Our guidelines are clear. It is up to parents to make sure their child attends school wearing trousers which suit their shape,” Blencowe told Yahoo. “Trousers which fit one pupil may be too tight on another, we have to draw the line somewhere.”