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Modesty in the Classroom
Mom with a View

Modesty in the Classroom

In today’s over-sexualized society, some school official are trying to bring some decorum and learning back to the classroom.


When I was in junior high, there was a strict dress code. This was not a religious mandate; the administration felt it was necessary in order to create a serious academic environment. Boys’ shirts needed to be buttoned all the way. Girls were forbidden to wear floor-length dresses or skirts (it was the early seventies, the era of the granny dress!) and any young lady caught wearing make-up was immediately sent home to wash it off.

So the recent story of a junior high in Petaluma, California that has instituted a ban on girls wearing pants that are “too tight” and distracting the boys struck a familiar chord.

In today’s “anything goes,” over-sexualized society, some school official are trying to bring some decorum and, dare I say it, learning back to the classroom.

And boy, are they getting attacked for it.

The arguments are not new – as Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

“Why should we have to dress differently just because the boys are distracted?” runs the tired yet familiar line from parents and teens. “Let them just control themselves.”

This line of reasoning disturbs me on two accounts.

One is the attitude of the parents, the experienced grown-ups in this scenario, the ones who are supposedly guiding their daughters to adulthood. What message do they want their girls to convey about who they are? How do they want members of the opposite sex to view their young daughters?

“If you don’t want to be treated like an object, don’t dress like one.”

Yes, everyone needs to learn self-control. But basic human nature can’t be changed. It boils down to a simple idea that can’t be repeated often enough. “If you don’t want to be treated like an object, don’t dress like one.” It’s not sexism; it’s reality.

The other issue I have with the defiant response of the parents and their offspring is that it sets up an ‘us versus them’ dynamic rather than encouraging a spirit of cooperation.

Let me reiterate: Yes, boys (and men) need to exercise self-control. But we live in a world alongside boys and men. Most of us have people we love who are boys or men – fathers, brothers, sons and husbands. We want to make it easier for them to function and even thrive in this world of ours. We don’t live in a vacuum. We can’t dress with complete obliviousness to our impact on men (and the truth is that most girls wearing “too tight” pants are not oblivious at all!).

And before you attack me in the comment section, please get this straight: I am not saying the boys are not responsible to learn self-control. They are! This is a two-way street. But I am saying there is something we women can do as well, and it’s not just for the boys’ sake, it’s for our girls’ sake as well.

After all, we want to teach our daughters self-respect and a focus on their inner selves. We also want to teach them to appreciate and understand the men in their lives.

When they get married, our daughters won’t want their husbands staring at another woman in those pants. And their husbands won’t want another man staring at their wife.

Junior High isn’t too early to teach this lesson and to encourage a sense of self among males and females that reflects character and not physicality. Let’s get the “too tight” pants, “too short” skirts, “too provocative” blouses out of the way so that their true beauty can shine through and the serious learning can occur.

April 27, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 20

(17) Samantha, May 17, 2013 2:12 PM

dress code

I agree in part that schools should institute a dress code. Where we diverge is the reason why. Schools are supposed to prepare boys and girls for life and a career. Learning to dress in a manner that would be appropriate if one was employed should be the message of a dress code.
To imply that it is only boys who find "too tight" clothing distracting and provocative is to deny that girls are also distracted by boys who wear items of clothing such as tight jeans or shirts.
The implication that "nice girls" don't notice the sexual attraction of boys in "provocative" clothing is oppressive to girls and women.
Why not accept sexuality as a natural occurance and stress presenting a professional appearance in the dress code and let the hormones take care of themselves instead of trying to have schools teach a particular moral code that should be left up to the parents .

(16) shira, May 2, 2013 6:35 PM

that's what's in the stores!

20 years ago you could not find styles like these in the stores.
But stores sell what people want to buy, and they want to buy what's NEW. So the clothes get tighter and spandexier, and cut lower. Have you ever tried to find a long skirt in a small size? almost impossible in chain stores. maybe we need the subsidize modest clothing production the way we subsidize public TV, before it entirely disappears.

(15) Anonymous, May 2, 2013 3:11 AM

Another thing I'd question is - what logic is there in banning floor-length dresses? I understand they were in fashion at the time and could have caused a distraction, but if you want modesty in a classroom, why make girls wear shorter skirts?

(14) Marion, May 2, 2013 3:07 AM

How do you define the provocative? Pants that are 'too tight', skirts that are 'too short', blouses that are 'too provocative'. Yes, some blouses/skirts/pants are designed to be provocative, but the spectrum is very broad. For example, most schools require girls' skirts to touch the ground kneeling - a particularly conservative teacher may take offense to even that. Some teachers may not mind a top button of a blouse undone if it's hot. Others would hate it. As for the 'tight pants' rule - How exactly do you define pants being too tight? It's based on personal opinion. For example, I ride a motorbike. My special motorbike jeans are quite tight, and they look tight. I wear them for protection in case of an accident. Not particularly provocative. If you went to the extreme end of the spectrum, as mentioned in comment 11, in some Muslim countries, women can't wear high heeled shoes because 'they provoke men'. Why not have a flat code of conduct for faculty AND students and teach the men some self-control - who knows, "Her clothes made me do it" might actually not be tolerated anymore as an excuse for rape.

(13) Moshe R., April 29, 2013 4:15 PM


Totally agree with this. Sadly schools at least the ones in Florida don't enforce their dress code. Back in 09 when Osceola schools started mandating uniforms it really didn't solve the problem. Since dudes would buy XL size or put a shirt on top of it, and even though the school would just give them a "Referral". I also agree girls need to wear more modest clothes. There should also be a law against dudes wearing tight pants since that can cause problem in the future(Hopefully you know what I mean), but I gotta say what a good read. Schools are just getting worse, and worse.

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