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Dear Schools, Please Stop Gender Policing Your Students

Dear Schools, Please Stop Gender Policing Your Students

I’m almost 30, so I think I qualify as an adult. I need to ask you, from one adult to another, can we please stop laying our baggage on kids? Can we please agree to not do that anymore?

I know that for decades, centuries even, we’ve been telling ourselves that boys act one way and girls act another and that boys and girls are the only two options. However, I really wish we could get over this misconception. At the very least, I wish we’d stop enforcing these misconceptions in schools.

The most recent instance of gender policing comes from Kansas, where a 13-year-old boy was suspended for carrying a purse. The student, Skylar Davis, had apparently been carrying this purse for months until a school official demanded that he put it away. According to Raw Story:

After telling Assistant Principal Don Hillard that he wasn’t going to take the purse off, Davis’ mother, Leslie Willis, was called to pick him up.

“I was a little furious, and I called the school [and spoke to Hillard] to reverify the story, and yeah, he refused to take off his Vera Bradley bag, nothing more to do it,” Willis recalled to KCTV. “Skylar has been going to school since August with that same Vera Bradley bag on, hasn’t taken it off. What is the problem?”

Willis added that there was no rule about purses in the school handbook.

Davis pointed out that girls at the school never faced punishment for wearing their purses.

For their part, the superintendent said that middle school students are forbidden from bringing bags to class and that this rule is enforced for both boys and girls.

Color me skeptical that a girl would be suspended for carrying a purse. Maybe I’d believe it if this was the only time schools have been in the business of enforcing antiquated gender norms on unsuspecting kids. But it isn’t. Far from it.

There is no indication of Davis’ sexuality or gender identity, and it doesn’t matter. However, the root of this potential discrimination is very similar if not identical to the discrimination LGBT students face from their schools every day.

Even though it’s 2013, gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans students are still systematically discriminated against at schools throughout the country. Private Christian schools in Georgia expel LGBT students and their allies as a matter of course, all while receiving millions of state dollars. A teen in North Carolina was only allowed to take his boyfriend to prom because an awesome mom intervened. A six-year-old girl was told by her Colorado school that she wouldn’t be allowed to use the appropriate bathroom.

But wait. There’s more. Remember how hard it was to get the Anoka-Hennepin school district to adopt an inclusive anti-bullying policy? And of course, we can’t forget that it’s OK in Texas to “out” gay students to their parents.

I can’t go on. It’s bumming me out. But I think you get my drift. This is all about how people “should” present themselves and behave. These are arbitrary standards that are changing all the time and, more importantly, they are absolutely meaningless. So a boy wants to carry a purse. So maybe a girl wants to date another girl. So maybe a kid’s gender doesn’t match his physical appearance. So what? Punishing kids for failing to fit into strict gender norms is only harmful. It tells kids that there is a narrow range of attributes that are acceptable. Not only does it sell children short, but it sells society short, as well. Who knows what kind of potential we’d discover these kids have if we could stop laying our gender baggage on their shoulders. We’re never going to find out if we keep forcing every individual into cookie cutter forms.


Help send the message to all schools that gender policing is not OK by demanding that Anderson County Senior-Junior High School let Skylar wear his purse to school.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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3:49AM PDT on Jul 8, 2014

Thank you

12:19AM PST on Dec 1, 2013

John M. seems to be jumping to conclusions when he equates purses to containers for holding potential weapons.

If that's the case, perhaps the majority of women, who I guess take their purses everywhere they go even if they are wearing clothes with pockets, are dangerous as hell.

I don't get what the school policy is, but this story is just... I dunno, don't they have other important matters to deal with?


7:56PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

so sad

11:58PM PST on Nov 19, 2013

If the other students leave their bags in their locker he does not have a case.

9:16AM PST on Nov 19, 2013

Maybe they are just upset that his purse just doesn't go with that outfit. I would seriously love to see the entire male population of Skyler's school come to class in kilts. Hand bags optional, of course.

9:14PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

Get a life, school.

4:28AM PST on Nov 18, 2013

Hmm. A boy carrying a purse. Is he picking my pocket or breaking my leg??? No??? Then I and EVERY OTHER AMERICAN cannot have any quarrel with him.

7:43PM PST on Nov 17, 2013

Hi Rob! you are so welcome...a few weeks ago the NFL made it a rule that To provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry into stadiums, NFL teams have implemented an NFL policy this year that limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into stadiums.

The NFL Committee on Stadium Security in May unanimously recommended the implementation of this measure that will enhance public safety and make it easier for fans to gain access to all stadiums.
The NFL strongly encourages fans to not bring any type of bags, but outlined today what is permissible. Beginning with preseason games, fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:

7:35PM PST on Nov 17, 2013

John C. your ignorance and bad taste in comments does this story no good.
Why not try kindness, tolerance and respect for another's viewpoint?
the church you referred to and Ms. Bachman have nothing in common except in your intolerant way of thinking.
shame to you sir. shame.

12:30PM PST on Nov 17, 2013

I am not gay, but I liked to build foxholes when I was younger. I liked to climb in my father's WWII plane that sat at our flying service in Livingston, MT. I liked to fly in my dad's Cessna also. I was not overly feminine...nor anything else. I loved Volleyball and Basketball in high school and I wanted to join the US Navy....and after I passed the test legally, I learned to dive well and to swim stronger. And, I was still not gay, I just did not want any relationship in those days, because men wanted to marry women and settle them down. I did not excel in High School until my last two years, my mom finally told me to study instead of read, read, read, from the library. I cut my hair short for the Navy. I kept it short, did not even think I looked different, which I did not. I used to go to my uncle's ranch and fish and ride his work horse, etc. so when I left home I still was an independent young woman fighting the system, still am. We need to stop trying to make people .......need to stop trying to put people into groups.......we need to let our kids tell us what they think even more so today than ever. I fought the system, all my life to have a job decent job and make a roof over my own head and manage without looking to others to say ...."good job" I win.

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