Students at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego are protesting a new anti-skirt policy that is supposed to encourage “modesty” and prevent male teachers from feeling “uncomfortable” while addressing violations.
Kevin Calkin, the principal at Cathedral Catholic High School, sent Yahoo Lifestyle a copy of the new policy, created as a last resort for students who don’t adhere to the knee-length minimum: “… The most significant change is that skirts will no longer be an option for girls. Dress code is a perennial challenge. The dress code exists for at least three good reasons: to foster unity, to encourage modesty, and to minimize pressure to conform to particular styles or clothing brands. Basically we hope to foster a faith-based environment where students are focused on learning and not on outward appearances.”
Calkin continued: “The main challenge with dress code has been the length of girls’ skirts. The school has made many attempts to rectify this challenge. The administration has worked with the Parent Association, has issued thousands of hours of detention, has made school-wide announcements (e.g., CCTV, orientations), and has worked with students one-on-one. None of this has had the desired effect of maintaining an overall modest skirt length in compliance with the dress code.”
The same uniform won’t fit everyone, explained Calkin, so the school allowed girls to first purchase skirts elsewhere, as long as hemlines fell at the knee.
“That did not work either,” he wrote. “The administration eventually opted against strictly enforcing current dress code guidelines because of the negative effect that could have on the environment. Male faculty feel uncomfortable addressing female students about the length of their skirts, and even female faculty have expressed frustration with the ongoing challenge of dress code. There are challenges with boys too, but nothing that will require a change in options.”
Girls can wear pants, Capri pants, or Bermuda shorts in black, navy blue, or khaki.
An anonymous person from the school, who could not be identified by Yahoo Lifestyle, started a Change.org petition called “Keep Skirts at CCHS” with close to 3,000 signatures. “Tell the boys to keep their eyes up and there won’t be a dang issue,” wrote a man who signed.
“Perhaps it is the staff that needs training, and an attitude adjustment,” suggested a supporter. “The girls are there to learn, just like the boys. Skirt length is a distraction only if you see girls as sexualized objects. Great lesson you are teaching them. Not!”
Remarked one woman: “This is absolutely sexist.”
And a mother wrote, “As a parent I am concerned about the tone deaf message that is being sent to the young women who attend CCHS. If there is a problem with the length of a young woman's skirt then it the responsibility of the faculty to enforce the school dress code that is already in place. If the reason the faculty cannot enforce the dress code is that male faculty are uncomfortable, then I suggest you find a way to have more than one teacher present and that you also consider training the male faculty to be able to deal with working with females. The message to the young women that they need to change to make men feel more comfortable is tone deaf and while I think CCHS is an excellent HS, I also think some of the messages to young women, including this one, reeks of patriarchal condescension and female subservience.”
According to Fox 5, students demonstrated in a “peaceful protest” at the school Tuesday morning.
A school spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle the revised dress code is a gender equalizer. “Now, all the boys and girls will wear the same thing — the goal is to concentrate on what’s important, not superficialities that distract from learning.”
In an official school statement sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, Calkin wrote, “One of the biggest challenges has been skirt length, and the distraction caused by teachers, administrators and students constantly dealing with it. Starting with the next school year, we have decided to just eliminate the problem and make the standards for male and female students the same. No more skirts means no more conflict over skirt length. Period.”
Calkin continued: “It’s a practical solution to a problem that gets more attention than it’s worth, causes more upset feelings than it’s worth and takes away from why we have a dress code to begin with, which is to have students and faculty pay less attention to fashion and a lot more attention to issues involving faith, character and learning.”
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