A Catholic high school in Ottawa has come under fire for cracking down on female students wearing form-fitting yoga pants. According to a statement from the school,
“If [students] are wearing ‘Lululemon pants’ or ‘jeggings’ of sorts, a long shirt covering them is required, otherwise they will be sent home.”
St. Joseph High School says that it is simply enforcing its dress code; the Ottawa Catholic School Board says that it is not banning students from wearing yoga pants, as they can wear them provided that they are also wearing a long shirt or similar article of clothing. Students — pointing out that there have been no similar rules applied to boys’ clothing — have started a “Save LuLus” petition (with over 300 signatures so far), in reference to the yoga pants made by the company Lululemon Athletica.
Said one female student to CTV Ottawa about a double standard regarding the the dress code:
“The guys at our school are allowed to wear pants that are around their ankles and they don’t get in trouble with it. The girls wear something just a little bit too tight and a little bit too revealing and the whole world comes crashing down.”
A parent, Kathie Clouthier, sent a letter to the school in which she asked why the school is highlighting this particular issue, but not educational concerns:
“Why is the emphasis not more on my daughter’s actual education rather than what pants she’s wearing?” Cloutier wrote. “Does our school system really have nothing better to do than come up with more reasons to make students rebel? It seems to me that schools seem to concentrate more on ‘appearances’ rather than what they are actually there for — to teach our children.
“Enough is enough already — please just worry about teaching my child rather than turning them off of attending school by imposing ridiculous bans such as this one. … As far as I’m concerned, if the schools keep pushing these ridiculous rules — all you will succeed in doing is pushing our children’s’ interest in school right out the door!”
Because Clouthier’s letter only represents the “complaint of one parent,” school board spokeswoman Mardi de Kemp said that the board will not respond.
Students have continued to wear their yoga pants. One student said that they have been told that “anyone who keeps wearing the yoga pants to school will get a detention the first time, a suspension the second, and expelled the third.” De Kemp says that there “have been no clothes-related detentions, suspensions or expulsions at St. Joseph’s this week.”
The school board has been emphasizing that it is simply enforcing its own existing dress code — meaning that, it was not enforcing its own dress code previously. Meaning that, students have been able to wear yoga pants without long shirts, sweaters, etc. and have not been disciplined, so it seems that St. Joseph High School has some explaining to do about its recent change in the enforcement of its policy.
I went to public school but, years ago, taught at a private school in the Midwest that had a very particular dress code. Girls had to wear skirts of a certain length or they had to put on a long “granny skirt” provided by the history teacher. Boys in the middle and upper school had to wear blue blazers of the sort you get at a place like Brooks Brothers. There’s a girl’s Catholic high school down the street from the Jesuit college where I teach in Jersey City; the students have uniforms and, based on where some of their skirts’ hemlines are, I would think there are ongoing “skirt length wars.”
At my college, there is no dress code and guess what the number one favorite fashion choice is among the female students? Yes, indeed, yoga pants or sweat pants that are not exactly “floppy. ” It’s really not an issue unlike, of course, getting reading assignments down, writing papers using tools of critical analysis and secondary sources, learning vocabulary for the next Latin quiz, completing lab reports, etc., etc.. As Clouthier, the parent of a St. Joseph High School student, wrote, “It seems to me that schools seem to concentrate more on ‘appearances’ rather than what they are actually there for — to teach our children.”
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