A boy in Britain is protesting his school’s dress code in a creative way: by taking advantage of a loophole in the system and wearing a skirt to school. 12-year-old Chris Whitehead says that he wanted to protest against the school’s policy, which prohibits boys from wearing shorts, even when it’s hot outside. Most recently, he addressed 1,368 pupils at morning assembly while wearing a black skirt.
“In the summer girl students are allowed to wear skirts but boys are not allowed to wear shorts,” Whitehead explained. “We think that this discriminates against boys. I will march in a skirt with other boys waving banners and making a lot of noise.”
The reason for the no-shorts policy seems a little confusing, and it’s unclear whether Whitehead’s protests will make a difference. It’s interesting, however, to compare this grievance with the dress code with other protests against schools’ attempts to regulate what students wear. In United States high schools, the debate tends to be over students’ ability to express their identity, not their comfort.
“When officials want to discipline a student whose wardrobe expresses sexual orientation or gender variance,” wrote Jan Hoffman in a November 2009 article for the New York Times, “they must consider antidiscrimination policies, mental health factors, community standards and classroom distractions.”
It seems as though Whitehead isn’t going to be forced to stop wearing a skirt, but his actions might not attain the desired result. In some sense, it’s heartening to hear the headmaster of Whitehead’s school explain that “‘ultimately the boys can wear a skirt to school because it doesn’t say they can’t in the uniform policy and we would be discriminating against them if we did not allow it.” But I suspect that this issue would be more controversial if Whitehead were making a statement more political than his desire for shorter pants during the summer.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.