“Yesterday was the first day back to school for both my girls. My first thought was, ‘Yes! Quiet! I can work in peace!’
So, I had a bath to regroup (as you do!). Then, as I got out the the bath and was just enjoying some downtime, the high school called me.
My eldest was being put in detention for the rest of the day because ‘her skirt is too short.’ According to them, ‘It needs to be close to the knee as it states in the uniform code of conduct.’ She’d been in school for one hour.
She’s 5 foot 6, 12 years old, and has the waist of a 7 year old.
I went to the school to pick her up because if she’s being put into detention, she may as well come home, and I asked to speak to someone to find out what was going on and why it was a problem.
When I asked IF the length of her skirt directly affects her education and ability to learn, I was told, ‘Yes.’ When pressed on HOW it directly affects her education and ability to learn, I was told it’s because of the ‘school policy.’ Didn’t answer my question, so I explained.
Her education and ability to learn is purely based on what comes out of her teachers mouth, and what plants itself between her ears and the level of understanding she has around that particular lesson or subject. So, again, I asked, ‘HOW does the length of her skirt directly affect her receiving an education, and her ability to learn?’
‘School policy dictates that if uniform doesn’t abide by the policies, the students are put into detention for the day.’
So, really, it’s the school policy that affects her receiving an education, based on some arbitrary idea of how close to the knee her skirt is. NOT, in fact, the length of her skirt.
This went on for a while with every answer to every question being ‘school policy’ and ‘code of conduct’ blah blah blah. They were clutching at straws and trying to fob me off with the pre-approved excuses people don’t usually question and/or they never expect to need to say, let alone push further.
Then it hit me.
‘When you put these policies in place, and adhere to them in the way in which you’re trying to do right now, you’re doing two things.
Firstly, you’re just blindly following the rules because they’re the rules, so that’s what it is. EVEN THOUGH you can’t back it up or have any valid justification for having the rules.
Secondly, and this is a big one, you’re discriminating against girls wearing skirts. We’ve already established girls wearing trousers and boys don’t have anything like this to deal with. So you’re discriminating SPECIFICALLY against girls who wear skirts.
You’re also judging these children by what they’re wearing, and in some cases punishing certain children based on how their clothes fit, just like this, which is impeding a child’s ability to receive an education – the whole reason they come to school. (It’s the law, they’re expected to receive an education.)
Furthermore, you’re SUBCONSCIOUSLY teaching over a thousand adolescents EVERY YEAR that it’s not just acceptable, but EXPECTED, it’s NORMAL, NATURAL, to judge someone by what they’re wearing or how their clothes fit. You’re also teaching them, subconsciously, that it’s perfectly acceptable to PUNISH someone based on what they’re wearing without any rhyme or reason.
This is where kids learn to judge. This is when some kids start to get singled out, that’s when bullying starts and becomes acceptable. This is how you’re teaching these adolescent minds, and ‘preparing them for the future’ where they will carry these lessons deep within them.
Girls are already body conscious, girls who wear skirts will be even more conscious of what they’re wearing because everyone else believes it’s OK to judge them by their appearance. This moves further into the societal psyche, where people (not just girls wearing skirts) start to get ostracized, marginalized, attacked. It’s also the belief system that it’s not only OK to judge girls, but also punish them based on what they’re wearing that fundamentally underpins RAPE CULTURE and why when a woman gets raped people ask, ‘What was she wearing? How short was her skirt?’ because CHILDREN in schools, just like this one, with rules just like this one are being taught that that’s OK. It’s normal. It’s acceptable. It’s expected for people to think and behave that way.
That’s how it is.
That’s how it’s always been.
And then, to pile this pressure onto a child who’s spent YEARS being bullied for the way she looks; she’s too tall, too slim, too muscular, too strong, too blonde, wears glasses and the rest – you’re adding onto this that her waistband is too low, her shirt too fitted, her skirt hem too high… her legs too long? What’s next? Her breasts? Is that really acceptable for a system, an establishment, an institution that’s meant to be preparing our children to move out and live in the real world? In modern day society?’
The member of staff I was speaking to looked at me dumbfounded, so I posed another question… ‘The dress you’re wearing, is that considered an acceptable length?’ It was to her knees. She said yes. I stood up. I’m 5’10, a good 4-6 inches taller than she was.
I asked if I were to wear her dress would it still be an acceptable length? She didn’t answer. Her face had all the shame and guilt and the ‘shoot, she’s got me’ of the ‘no’ written all over it.
Then, I pointed out 3 members of staff all wearing shorter skirts than my daughter. Where’s their code of conduct?How come what they’re wearing isn’t considered inappropriate? Should they be setting an example?
Today I realized just how deeply ingrained this all is.
How a lot of the things that people are shouting about, wanting to make/see HUGE changes on are deeply embedded into our school systems. How unless you tick a certain box a certain way, or look a certain way, fit a certain way. behave a certain way, this is just normal. All for the sake of subjects and lessons that are graded on papers. But the real lessons, the HOW TO BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING AND NOT A TOTAL A-HOLE lessons aren’t even considered. They’re barely even an afterthought because ‘they’re the rules.’
This isn’t just about my daughter, or her school. It’s a much larger issue. We see articles about girls being sent home from school because of their clothes all the time.
And this isn’t a child’s issue, it’s not even a parents issue. Parents can only buy what’s available for purchase. If there’s really a problem with the clothing, it’s time to take it up with the manufacturers. Not me. And more importantly, if these girls feel comfortable wearing these clothes, and they don’t pose any real threat or harm, what’s the problem? It’s not the girls’ clothes that need to be changed. It’s the antiquated belief systems and ‘that’s how it is because that’s how it’s always been’ mentality.
But here’s the thing: Times change. Thoughts change. Should policy’s not change, too? Should they not grow alongside humanity? Become more accepting? More inclusive?
Through this, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what’s been screwing me up for the past 33.5 years. I know a lot of what it is screwing my kid up, too. She doesn’t just have schoolwork to struggle with, she has to make sure her works in order, and she doesn’t put her hand up too much in class, or ask too many questions so as to not be ‘disruptive.’
She’s always got to be aware of her clothes and if they’re in accordance to BS policies that leave her open to scrutiny and punishment. She has bullies to deal with, peer pressure, and trying to make sure she sticks within the vague lines of codes of conduct that have no valid reasoning or solid basis.
It’s rules for the sake of rules. And ‘because they’re the rules’ as the reason.
Bleurgh! I hate it.
It makes me feel sick.
It makes my daughter cry every week.
It makes me angry.
And it makes my beautiful daughter apologize for her own existence on average every 32.6 seconds (seriously, sometimes all I hear her say is ‘sorry’).
Yesterday didn’t go the way I planned. It turned into a nightmare. It took me 11 hours to calm down. I wasn’t calm at school. I was the Raging Mom who wanted to tear someone’s head off because my kid was only allowed to school for ONE freaking hour, all because of a skirt.
But it’s not really because of a skirt.
Or it’s not now…
This is so much more than being about ‘just a skirt.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Debbie Bradley and originally appeared here. You can follow her journey on Instagram, and her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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