This 5-year-old girl's outfit was considered inappropriate at school. We're confused.
About a week ago, Houston dad Jef Rouner sent his 5-year-old daughter to school wearing a bright, colorful outfit, perfect for the warm, southwest weather. It was a full-length, rainbow spaghetti-strap dress. Thinking ahead (because it gets chillier by the end of the day), Rouner also packed pants and a t-shirt —just in case. So when his daughter came home wearing that spare change of clothes, he just figured she got cold. However, he learned that school officials actually forced the little girl to change because she’d broken the school dress code.
Obviously, Rouner was pretty shocked. The 5-year-old had worn the dress before, to church even, where it was deemed perfectly acceptable. Rouner describes the outfit in his blog post for the Houston Press, stating, “It’s a dress from a mall chain store in her size. It covers everything but her shoulders and a small section of her upper chest and back. She’s worn it to church, and in the growing heat she was looking forward to wearing it a lot because it’s light and comfortable.”
But according to Rouner, school officials didn’t just make the girl cover up her shoulders — they told her to put pants on under her already full-length long dress (which completely covered her legs, FYI). Rouner wrote, “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 problem with this case isn’t that the school has a strict dress code — the problem is that the dress code only focuses on female-specific clothing, and is really only concerned with female humans.
As Yahoo Parenting points out, the dress code at the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District mandates that dresses “must not reveal underclothing, midsection, torso, back, chest, breasts, or cleavage and must be mid-thigh in length or longer.”
“It mentions cleavage, but she’s 5,” Rouner told Yahoo Parenting. “She was wearing a Children’s Place dress that I got at the mall for $20.”
Kids aren’t allowed to wear outfits that expose the chest and torso, but (for the most part), clothing stores only sell clothes that expose chest and torso to GIRLS. So when the school wrote these rules, they definitely had girls in mind. Not boys. These guidelines are unfair, and they’re only perpetuating double standards that will continue to affect girls like Rouner’s daughter. Rouner makes a sad, but poignant observation: “Make no mistake; every school dress code that is not a set uniform is about policing girls and girls alone.” (The school district has not released an official response to Rouner’s complaint as of yet.)
This isn’t the first case of a female student who faced consequences because of a supposedly questionable outfit choice. Earlier this month, a high-schooler in Orange County, Texas, was sent home because of the leggings she was wearing. Another high-school girl was sent home from prom because her back was exposed — this happened on Friday. We’re seeing more and more similar cases, but luckily, people are also fighting back. People like Jef Rouner who see just how damaging these guidelines can be.
Rouner writes, “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.”
Hopefully the growing spotlight on incidents like these prevent future incidents from even happening.