Jef Rouner’s 5-year-old daughter was forced to cover this dress, and put jeans on underneath, because it was in violation of the school’s dress code, he says. (Photo: Jef Rouner)
A 5-year-old girl was forced to cover up her dress this week after she was told that her spaghetti straps were not in compliance with the school dress code, according to her father.
Jef Rouner, a writer for the Houston Press and author of Sleepers, Wake!, wrote a column on Wednesday describing how his daughter, who went to kindergarten on Monday wearing a dress with spaghetti straps, was made to cover her shoulders with a jacket and put a pair of jeans underneath her skirt. “It’s a very pretty dress, she’s worn it to school before,” Rouner tells Yahoo Parenting. “When she came out [of school covered up], I thought she had just been cold, but she said ‘no, spaghetti straps aren’t allowed.’ I thought, that’s shaming, and that’s wrong. It’s saying, ‘how you look is not appropriate,’ and she’s worn that dress to church.”
Jef Rouner’s daughter was instructed to put pants on underneath this dress, which she wore to kindergarten. (Photo: Jef Rouner)
In his column, Rouner writes that he was especially disturbed that his daughter, whose name he declined to reveal to Yahoo Parenting, was forced to wear jeans under her skirt. “It’s a full-length dress that she has to hold up to keep from getting wet in uncut grass,” he writes. “She even had a small set of shorts underneath because it was gym day. But because the top part of her dress apparently exposed the immoral sinfulness of her bare shoulders she also had to pull on jeans even though her legs remained completely covered as part of her punishment.”
The dress code at the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District includes the mandate that “the student’s dress and grooming shall not lead school officials to reasonably believe that such dress or grooming will disrupt, interfere with, disturb, or detract from school activities.” For dresses specifically, the guidelines state that they “must not reveal underclothing, midsection, torso, back, chest, breasts, or cleavage and must be mid-thigh in length or longer.”
Spaghetti straps are not specifically mentioned in the dress code, Rouner points out. “It mentions cleavage, but she’s five,” he says. “What bothers me the most is that I don’t go to weird stores. She was wearing a Children’s Place dress that I got at the mall for $20.”
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District did not immediately respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
Rouner says that dress codes like these unfairly target girls. “There are literally no male-specific guidelines anywhere on that list. I mean prohibitions against exposing the chest or torso could hypothetically apply to boys except that they don’t. Not really. They don’t sell boys’ clothes that do that,” he writes. “Essentially, a school dress code exists to prevent girls from displaying too much of their bodies.”
So while a 5-year-old girl can be forced to change clothes, her male classmates won’t get the same treatment, Rouner says. “The only way a boy can break the dress code is if he alters his clothing or wears it in a way that it wasn’t intended,” he says. “A girl can break the dress code wearing something exactly as it was intended to be worn.”
The Houston dad writes that he had been expecting these issues to arise eventually, but he was surprised to be dealing with it so soon. “I’m not surprised to see the dress code shaming come into my house. I have after all been sadly waiting for it since the ultrasound tech said, ‘It’s a girl.’ I didn’t think, though, that it would make an appearance when she was 5 years old,” Rouner writes. “Cut her hair and put her next to a boy with no shirt on and she is fundamentally identical.”
Rouner says his daughter seemed angry when she came home from school after the incident. “She seemed crestfallen and indignant,” he says. “She said ‘spaghetti straps aren’t allowed, those are the rules, and that’s how it is.’ I explained that there has to be a reason for the rules — there are a lot of horrible things that have once been in ‘the rules.’ I told her if someone tells her a rule, she should ask why, because if you can’t get the answer, it’s probably not a very good rule.”
His daughter wore another dress to school on Thursday, and Rouner says he doesn’t expect a problem, though he can’t be sure. “If she wants to wear the spaghetti strap dress again, I’ll let her,” he says. His hope is that eventually it won’t matter what she wants to wear, whether it’s her favorite jeans or a sleeveless sundress. “I just want things to be better for her and hopefully her children. It’s not about me or her or any individual person, it’s about an attitude.”