Student uniforms are nothing new in Britain, but a growing number of schools are making a drastic change to the common sweater-and-bottoms combo in service of modesty: they are banning skirts. The Los Angeles Times reports on Nailsea School outside of Bristol, one such institution, which changed its regulations this year to require female students to wear trousers only instead of giving them a choice between trousers and skirts. Headmaster David New explained the change as the simplest way to combat a common problem of “hemline creep.” Previously, the rules required that the length of student skirts must be either just above or below the knee, but many students continued to violate the dress code.
Teachers complained that the time spent enforcing the rules and punishing the offenders was drawing effort and focus away from lessons. Nailsea administrators gave it one more year, and after situation didn’t improve, they finally went ahead with the skirt ban this fall.
The issue of the length of the uniform skirt is not unique to Nailsea:
One headmaster in western England complained that his female students wore skirts that were “almost like belts,” while a headmaster in a Scottish border town warned that the girls’ increasingly revealing attire risked encouraging “inappropriate thoughts” among the boys.
Even in the United States, where the school uniforms aren’t nearly as ubiquitous, length of uniform skirts can cause controversy in school hallways. According to the Mercury News, Traci Williams, the principal of San Jose’s Piedmont Hills High School, raised a stir by requiring cheerleaders to wear sweatpants under their uniform skirts while attending classes.
Although the policy isn’t new – the school has been requiring skirts be at least mid-thigh length for years – this year a new cheerleaders’ uniforms with shorter skirts were introduced. At the same time, Williams strengthened the enforcement of the rules by instituting “dress-code sweeps,” pulling violators out of class until parents show up with a change of clothing.
But what does that have to do with a tailored, custom-made uniform that cost school cheerleaders $300? It’s not clear who decided to raise the cheerleaders’ hemlines.
Although the new uniforms are acceptable for the field, they are no longer fine for the classroom.