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Virginia School District Wants to Ban Cross-Dressing By Students

Virginia School District Wants to Ban Cross-Dressing By Students

The school board of Suffolk in southeastern Virginia is considering a ban on students cross-dressing in order to minimize “safety risks, disruptions and distractions.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has already sent a letter to the school district informing it that such a dress code is “unlawful and unfair to students” and that the district should not be banning “nonconforming behavior” but addressing the issues of bullying or harassment.

The proposal specifically bans “clothing worn by a student that is not in keeping with a student’s gender and causes a disruption and/or distracts others from the educational process or poses a health or safety concern.” In addition, the district is seeking to not allow students to wear “sexually suggestive or revealing attire,” including “spandex, ripped clothes, sagging pants, short skirts, sleepwear, open-toed shoes, sunglasses, head coverings unless worn for religious or medical purposes, and clothes advertising alcohol or illegal substances. That is, cross-dressing is thought of as somehow provocative rather than as students seeking to nonconform and express their identity and individuality.

MSNBC reports that the Suffolk School Board reviewed the proposal to ban students from cross-dressing on Thursday night but has yet to vote on it.

Banning Cross-dressing Instead of Addressing Bullying

In defending its stance, the Suffolk School District says that it is not exactly seeking an “outright ban on certain clothing.” Board Vice Chairwoman Thelma Hinton raised concerns about cross-dressing after a number of teachers spoke of “several male students who were wearing makeup, wigs and dresses to class,” according to WAVY-TV. Make students dressed in such clothing  have had to use a faculty restroom after they were said to be threatened by classmates.

Hinton raised the issue of “safety.” But this can be seen as a code word that the school district’s first concern is to protect itself legally, rather than to address the disturbing and potentially violent behavior of some students towards others. By seeking to create a ban on cross-dressing, the Suffolk School District is in essence “blaming the victim,” by telling students who cross-dress that doing so is inappropriate. MSNBC quotes California psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, who studies gender and child development, and says that

..the proposed ban is “a subtle form of harassment” and the school district should focus instead on monitoring bullying.

“They should do education about gender instead,” emphasizing empathy and understanding, Ehrensaft said. She said that when nonconforming students don’t feel safe or accepted at school, their sense of anxiety, anger and depression may increase.

Ehrensaft emphasized that cross-dressing is a “healthy variation on gender.”

The killing of 15-year-old Lawrence King by another student — King occasionally wore  jewelry, high-heeled boots and makeup to school — has been ruled a hate crime. The Suffolk School District is doing exactly the wrong thing by creating a ban; it is sending a message that it is ok to bully students who cross-dress and who are different. Is this really what the Suffolk School District wants to teach its students?

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178 comments

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4:18AM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

Yes, because nothing bad ever happened when a young woman wore a schoolgirl uniform. It hasn't been sexualized at all.

9:07AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

11:56PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

This is so bad !

8:27AM PST on Dec 4, 2012

Please try to understand the bullies for a moment. They are pathetic morons who somehow know they are at the bottom of the pile but are desperate to claw themselves out of that position. They can only do that when they perceive someone else to be inferior and can show their "superiority" by violence, either physical or verbal and usually only when in a group.

8:27PM PST on Mar 4, 2012

Haven't they more important issues to focus on?

1:12PM PST on Feb 21, 2012

Trousers on women is not crossdressing because trousers are both masculine & feminine garb. There are certain trousers that are strictly feminine & if a man wear then HE would be crossdressing. Sneakers, socks, t-shirts, etc fall into this category of unisex gear.

It is difficult to categorize a woman as crossdressing because female fashion have no boundaries. It is how the woman wear them that makes it crossdressing. However boxers & masculine suits may point towards crossdressing.

It is much more easy to determine male crossdressing because male wear is much more conservative.

1:51PM PST on Feb 15, 2012

So what is "cross-dressing" then? Is a girl wearing pants cross-dressing? Or does it only apply to males who wear feminine clothing, accessories and makeup? That seems like a bit of a double standard to me. They should be addressing the bullying not trying to "punish" students for expressing themselves. I also agree though that high school students (and younger!) should not be wearing revealing clothing, be it cleavage or butt cracks. I think the ban goes a little too far with "open-toed shoes." Since when are flip-flops and the like uber sexy?

4:38PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

I suppose it also says something about me that my reaction to the picture associated with this article isn't "OMG they're wearing the WRONG clothes", but to think that a cummerbund might have looked good with the tux and a nice string of pearls might have kept that dress from looking dull. I guess it's really hard to find nice dresses that will fit a male figure. But, that said, yes, clothing itself has no gender. As far as I'm concerned, it's past time we just considered it all unisex and moved on to more important issues than whether or not a guy wants to wear a skirt.

4:11PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

School is for learning. Dressing up like the opposite sex is for attention. This attention goes against learning. So yes, ban cross-dressing from schools. I believe in freedom of expression, but there has to be some line. I'm all for banning "sagging" anywhere in the world. If you want to show your a$$, do it at home. I don't want to see it. I feel the same about kids dressing as the opposite sex for attention. I have no problem w/homosexuality or transgenders, etc. But in the case of schools, it's a different story. I also think they should lose the cameras all over the place & not lock kids in, making schools a prison. But that'll never go over- the Land Of The Free is now gone.

11:33AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

So girls can't wear trousers?

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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