Haines School is now one of many around the US that have put restrictions on yoga pants and leggings. These rules have sparked discussions about appropriate school attire and personal choice.
At Haines School, the new dress code slogan is ‘hitch up your britches and cover your bums.’ Students who wear leggings or yoga pants must wear a long shirt or skirt that covers their rear. And students whose pants sag are reminded to pull up their britches.
Dean of Students Rene Martin says this was the problem: some students were wearing leggings and yoga pants that were see-through, and there were also some boys who wore pants that sagged and showed their underwear.
“Quite honestly, no one needs to know what underclothing you have on,” Martin said. “And when you can see or not see underclothing, that is impacting education setting. Both for males and females and staff and teachers and visitors to our building. It’s a distraction.”
She says she talked to individual students about it, but they kept wearing the same thing.
“You know, I was giving them a chance, giving them a chance,” Martin said. “And then it’s like the day I had to see everybody’s something-something, I was like, ‘okay, it’s time.’”
The week before spring break, the school made an announcement: Students wearing baggy pants, pull them up and wear a belt. Students who want to wear yoga pants or leggings, wear a shirt or skirt that covers your butt. They said the updated restrictions would go into effect after spring break.
Martin says this isn’t a change to dress code policy, but an update. The dress code states: “Undergarments including bra straps and sports bras, underwear, are not to be visible.”
The “hitch up your britches and cover your bum” update applies to all grades, Kindergarten through 12. Martin says even though see-through or baggy pants weren’t a problem in younger grades, it’s just more equitable to apply restrictions throughout the whole school.
A group of high school students sitting together at lunch last week said they think the rule is mainly targeted at girls who wear yoga pants and leggings. The saggy pants restrictions aren’t new.
“I don’t really care. I’m a jeans person. I don’t wear leggings, I don’t wear yoga pants as often,” said Gabrielle Galinski.
Rachel Haas says she does wear leggings and yoga pants.
“Since we’re going through high school, everyone’s having their own body issues — like gaining weight and stuff like that,” she said. “And some people grow out of their jeans and leggings are just way cheaper. So that kind of made me mad.”
Rachel is wearing a long, knee-length rainbow sweater. She says she’s worn the sweater almost every day in order to keep wearing leggings.
A group of middle school girls across the cafeteria had even stronger feelings about the rule. Ashley Williamson says not all yoga pants are see-through, so why put restrictions on them all? She also feels like the dress code rules are unfairly enforced.
“The authorities are nagging on girls for, like, leggings but there are also guys who sag their pants. I’ve never heard any teacher talk to them about that, ever.”
Ashley and her friends say a rule that focuses on whether or not your butt is covered makes them uncomfortable. One girl put it this way: “When someone says you need to cover your butt, I’m like, ‘why were you looking at my butt in the first place?’”
“I walked in one morning and I heard several people in the hallways arguing about the rollout of the policy,” said high school English teacher Ryan Harms. He says when he heard how fired up some students were about the dress code, he decided to have class discussions about it.
“[Students said things] ranging from the sense of victimization as a woman that they’re being sort of objectified. And then there were other people who said ‘It’s not a big deal, I’m not violating the dress code anyway so it doesn’t affect me.’”
Martin says only one student has come to her with concerns about the dress code.
“Their biggest concern was, are we picking on the girls for what they’re wearing? And that it should never matter what you’re wearing, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed,” Martin said. “And I reassured them that it wasn’t about personal choice of clothing, it wasn’t about shaming them for what they’re wearing. It’s about professionalism in an educational setting, and appropriate wear for this setting.”
A few years ago, the student council appealed a dress code rule banning hats. And now, high schoolers are allowed to wear hats in the building. Martin says if students want to change dress code restrictions, that’s the way they can do it.