Target: Tussahaw Elementary School Principal Carl Knowlton and Assistant Principal Attenya Scott
Goal: Apologize for deeming a six-year-old girl’s skirt inappropriate and forcing her to change clothes
Dress codes are found in nearly every school across the United States, and, especially in the case of middle schools and high schools, serve to prohibit clothing that can be considered provocative, distracting, and promoting drugs or violence. These guidelines tend to be most strictly enforced with older students. However, an elementary school in Henry County, Georgia decided to label a kindergartener’s outfit as “inappropriate” and “distracting to other students” based on the length of her skirt.
The six-year-old student at Tussahaw Elementary School was wearing an outfit that she had, in fact, worn the previous week without incident. The clothing in question consisted of a ruffled skirt of just-above-the-knee length with tights worn underneath and a long-sleeved shirt. According to reports by the local news, the outfit “drew the attention of the assistant principal…[who] deemed the clothing to be inappropriate based on the way it was being worn.”
When the student’s mother, Audrey Hightower received a phone call from the school informing her that she needed to bring a change of clothes for her daughter, she was shocked, stating that there was no reason to take clothing based on the way her daughter was dressed that morning. When Hightower arrived at the school, she found her daughter dressed in a pair of jeans that she did not provide, a measure taken by the assistant principal. Hightower, who informed school administrators that she did not agree with this decision, changed her daughter back into her original outfit.
This case is a clear example of how school dress codes are often designed to target girls, making them the ones responsible for not “distracting” others, rather than teaching all students to respect one another. In middle schools and high schools across the country, adolescent and teenage girls are continuously told that they must cover their knees, cover their shoulders or not wear clothing that is too tight in order to not distract their male peers. In Henry County, Georgia, this apparently applies to kindergarteners as well.
Hightower expressed her displeasure with the school’s decision to label her daughter “inappropriate,” stating that she felt her daughter was being judged solely on what she was wearing. Telling a six year old that the length of her skirt (even with tights underneath) is somehow improper serves only to reinforce the idea that girls, even at such a young age, must be responsible for how others view the way they dress.
Demand that Tussahaw Elementary School administrators apologize for labeling this kindergartner’s outfit inappropriate. By doing so, the school has done nothing but help reinforce a culture of sexualizing girls and, in the process, cause a six year old embarrassment and confusion.
Dear Principal Carl Knowlton and Assistant Principal Attenya Scott,
Recently, a kindergartener at Tussahaw Elementary School was informed that her skirt was too short, and that she must change into jeans. This was despite the fact that the young girl was wearing tights, as well as a long sleeve shirt. Furthermore, the student had worn the same outfit only the week before with no problems.
The way that school administrators handled this problem does nothing but reinforce the idea that girls must be the ones responsible for not “distracting” others, rather than teaching all students mutual respect. There is no reason that a kindergartener’s outfit should be considered a “distraction” to other students. This causes nothing but embarrassment and confusion for the student who has been labeled “inappropriate,” especially when the student is a six-year-old who most likely does not think of clothing as being either appropriate or inappropriate at all.
The school has made it clear that it is the responsibility of a six year old to not “distract” other students with her outfit, but this does nothing except promote the idea so often seen in middle schools and high schools, that boys are incapable of not being distracted, and therefore girls must be responsible for their classmates’ behavior. In light of the way that school administrators at Tussahaw Elementary School handled the issue of this young girl’s outfit, I urge you to apologize to both the student and her mother for creating a problem where there was none.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Boris Kavashkin via Wikimedia Commons