Dress codes: Good thing or bad thing?
Dress codes: Good thing or bad thing?

Assign to Google Classroom

They're called leggings popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others.

Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggings have become a clothing accessory that's increasingly controversial and seemingly, the favorite new target of the school dress code.

Some schools have banned leggings outright. Others have set limits. Haven Middle School in Evanston, just north of Chicago, took what turned out to be a contentious stand: If you wear leggings, you need to have a shirt or skirt over them that reaches at least down to your fingertips.

In other words, girls need to cover their behinds.

It might seem a reasonable enough request at a time when school dress codes and even school uniforms are common and often supported by teachers and administrators who frequently complain about students who push the limits of good taste, and the parents who let them (and may even push those limits themselves).

But how far is too far? And do schools sometimes go too far in pushing back?

When safety isn't at issue, says Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the courts tend to throw the cases back to the schools and parents, so they can come up with solutions together.

It's not always easy, since many people have a different notion of what's appropriate and what's not and what's distracting, and what's not.

At Haven Middle School, there has been a lot of confusion. Just a few weeks ago, the school's own website said leggings were banned, when apparently they were not, school officials now say. Then there was the matter of yoga pants, which are tight like leggings, but flared at the bottom. Did the fingertip rule also apply to those types of pants, especially when no one could tell the difference if they were tucked into boots, which is also a popular style among teens?

Clearly frustrated with the debate, Haven Middle School teachers posted this statement on the school's website to explain the reasoning behind the leggings policy: "We believe, through years of experience and professionalism, that it is essential to our school's climate that we set a standard of expectation and decorum."

They denied that they acted because leggings distract boys, as has been alleged by some parents.

There are those who argue that the best way to handle the dress code dilemma is to mandate uniforms, such as the blue pants and white shirts worn by Chicago Public Schools students.

"It puts everyone on the same playing field when they're at school," says Kitty Rotella, principal of St. Mark's Episcopal School, a private school for preschool through eighth grade in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. When her students have the occasional out-of-uniform day, she says, she feels like they're more distracted, even if there's no attire she deems inappropriate.

But others question the value of any strict codes.

Haley Bocanegra, a 17-year-old junior who attends high school in Riverside, Ill., regularly pushes the limits even further at her school, sometimes dressing like a boy, or wearing wigs and goggles for a "Steampunk" outfit, or a Japanese anime costume.

She says teachers usually have a harder time with it than her classmates.

"I'm paying attention in class. So why are you making a big deal about it?" the honors student asks, showing them the student handbook to prove she's not violating the code.

Critical thinking challenge: The story states the advantages to school uniforms. What are the downsides, if any?

Filed Under:  
Assigned 66 times


COMMENTS (234)
  • JuliaNS-3
    4/16/2014 - 11:55 p.m.

    In many public schools, who do not require students to wear a uniform, the dress code has acquired a new category. Leggings are being labeled as distracting and inappropriate. Many school staff and parents have complained of the skin tight pants that apparently show all. Schools, like Haven Middle School in Evanston, Chicago, have banned leggings, but students continue to test the limits by wearing yoga pants or skirts over their leggings. So, some public schools have resulted in uniforms. Sadly, the students who didn't try to find a way around the rules are then also punished, and no one gets to express their personal style. I think leggings are completely appropriate, plus they cover way past your fingertips, resulting in a normal everyday outfit.

  • AlicesonBegaye-Lar
    4/17/2014 - 11:58 a.m.

    I think that they should allow students to wear what they want as long as they have good grades and are focusing in class. I also think they should stop students from expressing themselves the way they dress.

  • Lindsay C
    4/17/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

    I do not think that leggings or yoga pants are a big deal. When people say that boys will be distracted, it's not true. I think jeggings look the same as leggings except they aren't black. School dress codes are just stupid in my opinion.

  • KailynPa
    4/17/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

    My school has a rule that you cannot wear leggings at all. I, personally, think this rule is not necessary because we all wear them outside school anyways. People (including other kids) see us out in leggings all the time, so what difference does it make if you wear them to school?

  • KalynSi
    4/17/2014 - 01:48 p.m.

    I don't see how leggings are such a distraction considering girls wear extremely tight jeans and jeggings too. I feel as if leggings are banned and frowned upon then jeans should be too because they appear the same because of how tight they are on girls.

  • kaylaVa
    4/17/2014 - 01:48 p.m.

    I honestly don't see the issue with leggings or yoga pants. They aren't showing off any skin and just because there form fitting doesn't mean anything. Some skinny jeans are even tighter than leggings and I don't see them banned so I dont think that leggings or yoga pants should be banned.

  • brintons
    4/17/2014 - 01:50 p.m.

    The downsides to school dress code are that students are not able to wear things that they like and express themselves. Also, school uniforms are so uncomfortable and I know because I had to wear a school uniform for seven years and I absolutely hated it. All the kids look the same and its so boring.

  • brynnd
    4/17/2014 - 01:51 p.m.

    I think that leggings and yoga pants are the most comfortable thing to wear ever. If you think about it skinny jeans are exactly the same thing. Schools take it too far sometimes.

  • Destinee P
    4/17/2014 - 01:52 p.m.

    In my school, we are not allowed to just wear leggings. We have to wear something to cover our butts if we do. I personally think it is a good idea. Some of these girls wear leggings and they are see through.

  • Bailee L
    4/17/2014 - 01:52 p.m.

    I agree that there should be limits. There is nothing wrong with leggings, my school has a policy that you can wear them with appropriate length dresses. Every school contradicts itself. A few years ago, then seventh grade, I was told my leggings were not appropriate with my dress. The people said there was nothing wrong, but I was written up, and given one demerit. Lengths should be taken to make clothing appropriate. Uniforms are not always the answer. I came from a Catholic school were we were given "dress down days". Yes, we did look at each other's outfits, but we were far from distracted. We all wore jeans or sweatpants, a change from our usual dress shirts and skirts. Some parents get it in their mind that they are above the school board. I don't understand how you can be above where you pay taxes to? If anyone is to blame, it is the parents for encouraging the dress or not putting a stop to it.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT