Simone Cariss and her 6-year-old daughter, Asha. (Photo: Facebook)
A mother has won the fight for her daughter to wear pants at school “like the boys” so she can ride her bike and play sports.
Simone Cariss from Melbourne, Australia, said that officials at her child’s school initially rejected her request to allow her daughter to wear pants as part of the winter uniform instead of the regulation wool dress. This forced her to launch an online petition on Friday night calling for gender equality in uniforms.
The Change.org petition urged state and federal policy makers to demand dress code options that don’t discriminate based on gender to be made available at schools that require uniforms. Cariss called her task a “simple and fundamental change that is well overdue.”
“Dresses disadvantage girls like my daughter,” Cariss said, explaining that the boys get to wear pants and shorts, which facilitate activities such as running around during lunch and playing soccer after school with peers far better than a dress.
An image from Cariss’s Change.org petition. (Photo: Change.org)
The student’s mother said Asha, 6, who is in first grade, asked, “Why can’t I wear pants like the boys?” Cariss added, “I’m not going to say to her, ‘because you’re a girl.’”
Following overwhelming public support — the Change.org petition received more than 10,000 signatures — the school reversed its decision, and Asha is now permitted to wear trousers instead of a tunic if she chooses to. “The principal called me today and said she hadn’t responded very well in the first place and that they would form a committee to discuss the changes and then roll them out,” Cariss told Kidspot. “This still needs to be mandated across the board, though, in my opinion, so not every girl who wants to wear pants has to fight for the right,” she added.
The Catholic school Asha attends, which Cariss did not want to name because she felt the issue was a widespread matter, did not have a school board or council to discuss with. Her only option, aside from the petition, was to make an antidiscrimination claim against the school, which she said was a stressful process. “It’s definitely not a reflection on the quality of education she’s receiving at the school. My daughter loves the school, and she’s got a lot of friends there,” she told the newspaper The Age. “I just want this to be changed for every little girl out there who wants to wear pants like half of their peers. It’s not about naming and shaming the school.”
A spokesman for the Victorian education minister James Merlino told the newspaper that options should be available to all students. “Government school councils are advised to develop dress code requirement that are similar for both sexes,” he said. Catholic Education Melbourne executive director Stephen Elder said decisions surrounding school uniforms were dealt with at an individual school level. “This autonomy is one of the core components to making Catholic education great,” he said, “providing our schools with the freedom and flexibility to act in the best interests of their students and families.”