A new dress code is being considered by a North Carolina school board in the hopes that it will combat bullying. The new regulation would prohibit students from wearing leggings or skinny jeans unless they also wear a top that extends over the students' behinds.
The suggested policy uses these words to explain further – long enough to "cover the posterior area in its entirety."
The New Hanover County School Board Vice Chairperson Jeannette Nichols said the reason for the new policy was that a teacher noticed that a student was being made fun of for wearing leggings, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
"She was a bit overweight and she was being bullied and teased," Nichols told the Wilmington StarNews.
On May 3, the board made public their intent to create the new order, but students were not reading the board's agendas, so the members got the word out on Twitter to get feedback from students. The tweet read as follows:
"Students: What do you think about changes made to district's Student Dress Policy?
The responses were negative, and anger toward the district for generating a sexist attitude that prescribed that girls should be "covered" to keep boys from being distracted was widespread. In fact, one student, Amber Ray, wrote:
@NewHanoverCoSch what am I supposed to wear to school??? Curtains???
Others asked why the district was wasting time on this topic and not focusing on more important issues such as the condition of schools and class sizes. Some said they would have to purchase new clothes. Another tweeted that she wore leggings most of the time because they were convenient and comfortable.
Chris Turner, an NHC parent, said if bullying was the catalyst for this change, working with kids on how to interact with their fellow students was more important than telling them how they should dress.
Controversy over students wearing skirts that were too short, boys wearing baseball caps in the classroom or hoodies, and even over this same restriction of leggings and yoga pants have popped up in schools nationwide.
AJ Willingham of CNN reports that Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday knew that fashion trends and the impact they can have at school can be "a bit of a minefield." He explained that the district was trying to avoid disruptive attire, meaning anything that would exacerbate bullying, in-class distraction, or unwanted attention.
Although there are male students who wear skinny jeans, Nichols told WECT Wilmington that the policy would limit bullying toward "some of the bigger girls." This comment drew a barrage of accusations of bodyshaming to the board from parents and students, according to Gabriel Samuels of the Independent.
Claire Lampen writes for Mic that New Hanover School Board member Lisa Estep said on Facebook that:
"You can't legislate kindness," she wrote. "But you can teach it. You can't legislate compassion. But you can live it. As a system, we should, as best we can, foster an environment where all students feel included and valued."
Student Josh Hill pointed out that accusing men of not being able to learn if females dress in "distracting" clothing is prioritizing men's education over women's. He says the school should teach males that women are not "sexual objects" and perceiving them as such would be wrong.