Are we in the 21st Century or the 18th Century? That sums up the rage felt by most of the female student body when came the day for five students to be suspended because of the length of their skirts. The extents to which the school is taking just to prove a point, seem to be causing more harm to students than doing any overall good to the school environment. It’s finally the students' turn to have a voice on this matter and we have heard from you to write this article.
The Students’ Side
On one hand, many students have felt unjustly punished for their skirt lengths and believe that there are several other ways to handle the situation rather than simply sending students home and leading them to miss out on important lessons.
The way that the school is dealing with the issue may be considered sexist, as for one thing, the girls that weren’t following the skirt length rule were sent home, however, boys’ hair length did not face the same harsh punishment and weren’t sent home, despite being a bigger group.
Sending students home can also be damaging to their education. The school tends to see skirt length as a problem mainly for older girls in MYP 5, DP 1 and DP 2. These girls that are sent home are facing the most challenging of school years and missing out on even one lesson can have very negative impacts on their overall achievement.
It is hard to find skirts in the school uniform that suits all body types and that match the length required. Some girls have longer legs than others, which forces them to buy skirts that are two times larger than their size, just to fit the ‘four fingers above knee length’ rule. It leads to the skirt being too big around their waists and not fitting properly overall.
The way it is handled is also embarrassing and humiliating, as teachers don’t usually pull students aside to tell them about their skirt length but rather shout at them in the front of the school. It is not a delightful experience or a very efficient method of educating.
Other schools that have started to enable girls to dress more comfortably and closer to their own style had no negative effects, especially in terms of the quality of the education they receive. Both boys and girls are paying equal attention to their classes and achieving just the same results as previously. This shows that there is no correlation between education and a person’s appearance.
In addition, there are more important things to be focusing on, rather than skirt length and whether or not a girl’s skirt is 4 or 6 fingers above their knee. After all, there isn’t a shocking difference between 4 and 6 fingers in length, and the more the school calls attention to this, the worst the situation gets as it teaches both boys and girls that a girl cannot dress the way she wants, but rather has to accept that her body is an object and that she cannot show it off. Even worst, she is being taught that she must cover up her body in order to prevent ‘distracting’ boys, instead of teaching boys to have respect for a lady’s body.
Most boys and male teachers don’t even notice our skirt lengths, however, they started paying more attention to it and judging it after the rumours that girls have been suspended due to skirt length started spreading. Both sides should take this into consideration and be taught about the subject equally, not as separate genders. We should feel safe in our own school, and that shouldn’t be a question of how covered up we are but rather how educated our society is in order to deal with such issues.
Hear it from others:
"Let me use the skirt I want!"
"Ironic that they get mad at students for short skirts but not for teachers/faculty/directors/staff"
"I think the length rules are ridiculous, but some girls do exaggerate."
"It's sexist, the school has more important issues to deal with."
"Teachers shouldn't look"
"It causes us to unfocus on our studies"
"I was suspended and lost an important English lesson"
“I had a male teacher come up to me and pull my skirt down”
“The way they enforce this policy is extremely inadequate”
“We are not in the 18th policy”
“There must be a limit otherwise it becomes a mess”
“It sexualises students”
“Very sexist. It demeans the importance of female education and enforces the idea that a woman’s body is a sexual object.”
“I think it’s unnecessary, as skirt length does not influence our learning”
“The school must be more open-minded”
“I understand that some skirts are too short- But there is not really that huge of a difference between 6 or 4 fingers above knee length”
The School’s Side
On the other hand, rules are rules and they ought to be followed by everyone, otherwise, there would be no sense of control over the school community. By doing so, we also get more prepared for life outside of school, as there will always be a set list of rules whether that is in the workplace or in a public space.
The rules are also clearly stated and all peers and teachers know what they can and can’t do. The rules induce decency within the school and if they are properly followed, they may bring a good overall reputation to the students and St. Francis.
Schools are not a place meant to show off, but rather a place used for teaching and learning. Students and teachers must properly know to distinguish their social lives and their school lives, as both have very separate purposes. There is almost no reason to try and show off certain items of clothing or even body parts as it is not within a school’s environment or even part of the objective, as one would have to deal with several different people of different ages, unlike in a social gathering with friends.
By obeying the rules, students and teachers look more professional and thus induce a more learning-prone environment, in which it will inspire students to learn and take their studies more seriously.
Schools have to be more flexible and take into consideration different body types especially for girls with long legs. They also shouldn’t take extremely harsh punishments, such as suspensions, for two fingers above what is required.
A more decent system could involve having the students receive physical strikes, such as notes on ManageBac, and only on the third note, they’re sent home. This way, they won’t be caught by surprise and it gives them more time to buy proper skirts. Parents should also have access to such notes in order to teach their children at home. It would also save students from public humiliation in front of peers and teachers.
Another possible solution would be allowing younger students to have the same ‘dress code’ rights as the DP students, in case they don’t feel comfortable wearing the school uniform or are unable to find skirts that properly fit them in terms of length and size around the waist.
“What is so shocking, or offensive, about the bottom inch of a teenage girl’s thigh or the bones below her neck?”. “When girls are denied time in the classroom because their knees, shoulders or upper arms are considered inappropriate and in need of covering up, it privileges the societal sexualisation of their adolescent bodies over their own right to learn.”
“Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a school taking a stand against the idea that girls’ bodies are irresistibly dangerous and sexualised, instead of reinforcing it?”
Co-Written by Manon Zarvos
Bates, Laura. “School Dress Codes Reinforce the Message That Women's Bodies Are Dangerous.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 Sept. 2015, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/10/school-dress-codes-reinforce-the-message-that-womens-bodies-are-dangerous.