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

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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?

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COMMENTS (234)
  • Alexbice7
    4/17/2014 - 01:58 p.m.

    I think dress codes are too strict. Like some things I understand if their booty shorts or see through. There are many things that can be overlooked though.

  • molly0221
    4/17/2014 - 02:26 p.m.

    Dress code is important but it is taken a little too seriously in my opinion. I think kids should be able to wear leggings and long shirts not no leggings all together.

  • AnnaN-5
    4/17/2014 - 07:33 p.m.

    Many public schools have started adding something new to their dress codes: leggings. As students start going into middle schools, teachers have started thinking that leggings were inappropriate. Haven Middle School in Evanston has set limits saying that you can wear leggings just as long as you wear a skirt or long shirt over them. Students still try to get around these rules by wearing yoga pants and tucking the bottoms into their boots. I think that this rule isn't very unreasonable since I have always been told that "leggings are not pants." Therefore I think that people should cover their bottoms anyway.

  • Lenay-4
    4/17/2014 - 07:41 p.m.

    Dress code good thing or bad thing?Most public schools, have dress codes which express basic rules about what you can and cannot wear to school, however some of these rules have gotten out of hand. Some public schools are going as far as banning leggings for being to tight. Or for example anything that hugs your waist or legs "Too tightly" are being labeled as inanpropriate. A lot of school staff members have complained about the inappropriate things they have seen students wearing these days. One school in particular, Haven Middle School in Evanston, Chicago, have banned leggings once an for all. However some students are still deciding to test the limits of the new rule and wear yoga pants instead of leggings. Unfortunately in some cases this has resulted in public schools switching to uniforms. This effects all students even ones not involved in pushing the rule too far. The great thing about being able to wear what you want to as long as it stays in the guidelines of your school are that you can express yourself. Its Sad these privileges are being taken away. Personally i don't understand this rule, most of the girls i know that wear leggings to school wear them to be comfortable not provocative.

  • AngeliC-5
    4/17/2014 - 10:39 p.m.

    This article is about school dress code. Schools along with parents discuss leggings and thier dress code because apparently they're a distraction, the same thing also occurs with yoga pants. Schools often get stressed about it. The school even thought of using a uniform to wear. A student often dresses up eccentrically and points out that it doesn't violate the school handbook. The downside to wearing uniforms though would that you can't tell which student is which because of the same uniform, and that it would probably smell horrible because it's worn so often, and it's really generally not fair to the students.

  • JessieC-2
    4/18/2014 - 10:27 a.m.

    Dress code now-a-days has seemed to be a very controversial issue throughout schools across the United States. One item that has been brought up on many school board discussions is leggings. It's popular to wear leggings as a younger girl, but come time middle school, some school board officials believe it's inappropriate. One school as an example, Haven Middle School located just outside of Chicago, has set a limit. They made it a rule that if you are to wear leggings, you must wear shorts, a skirt, etc. over them to cover your behind. Many parents and students at Haven Middle School are confused, because they're been getting mixed emotions from school officials. It has also caused much frustration and controversy within the parents and students involved in the school. Haven is not the only school making a stand, many others have showed authority as well.

    I think this article is an eye opener. Many schools enforce dress code very strictly. First it was spaghetti straps, then it was short shorts, now it's leggings. I see no need what-so-ever to ban leggings. They meet every requirement. They cover your entire legs, which is well fast your fingertips. What's the difference between that and jeans? I don't see any. It's frustrating from a student's perspective, when leggings are the most comfortable thing you own.

  • NakoomaKewenvoyouma-Lar
    4/18/2014 - 11:58 a.m.

    Now these days school uniforms seems like a big problem and I do hope that my school does not have uniforms. Students should be able to express themselves through clothing only if it is Appropriate and many students do not dress in that type of way. Leggings are nice to wear and comfortable but to girls they are not that type of wear it can go with any shirt and it looks nice. There are so many downsides to school uniforms first of all what if students loose their clothes. Also I don't think that it would look to nice, because people are different and they have different taste in clothing. So uniforms are not a good thing sort of then again it is sort of good, but I hope that my school does not choose that option.

  • hectorro-Koc
    4/20/2014 - 10:58 p.m.

    I think that they should allow leggings to be wore at school . I mean they're not braking any rules is not like they are naked.

  • lisal-Koc
    4/21/2014 - 12:41 a.m.

    I think the whole "dress code" situation is kind of stupid. Just like people in the article say, everyone has a different idea of what's right and wrong. Dress code should definitely not be a big thing in school. People should know and have enough respect for themselves and others to decide what is appropriate to wear to school.

  • dennisk-Koc
    4/21/2014 - 01:03 a.m.

    I think it is a very good idea for a dress code because it hides who you are and makes everyone equal.
    Not everyone has nice cloths so if everyone has the same stuff than it helps solve a lot of problems.

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