By Tori McCaffrey
Laughs and smiles abounded during Orientation Day as students were reunited after a long summer apart, trading stories and taking pictures on the front lawn. Tensions arose, however, when female students were warned about the newest uniform change. All skirts have to be at the knee or girls risk incurring a detention. Students flocked to social media expressing their distress and dissent through the #freetheknee hashtag.
During the first week of school, all female students were taken out of Advisory to be briefed on the new uniform expectations. Students voiced particular concerns, such as the excessive cost of buying new skirts and the fact that Flynn & O’Hara, our designated uniform store, simply does not sell skirts that both fit the waist and reach the knee. Paul VI administrators told students that they needed to let down their hems or purchase a new skirt. Girls with too-short skirts face detentions. Schoolwide resentment was publicized through a fresh coat of paint on our rock reading “Free the Knee.”
Most students were not as upset with the rule as they were with the underlying message: that their bodies were a distraction. “My body being a distraction is uncomfortable, because I am not just a body, but a person with a feelings and thoughts,” says Kelsey Herrity ‘17. “That some people do not understand that is upsetting.” Imposing such stringent uniform rules on young girls teaches them not only that their bodies are inherently sexual, but that they are shameful and need to be covered up. Girls should not have to spend time and money accommodating those who do not give them the respect they deserve.
A less problematic and definitely cheaper way to combat any distraction occurring would be to speak to the ones being distracted. If girls’ uniforms really do cause such disruption, reminding boys about standards of respect is a simple fix. Simple respect should not be as big of an issue as it has become.
Panther Press invites you to weigh in. See the Paul VI Student Handbook (47-49) for a discussion of Dress Code and Paul VI Catholic High School Uniform particulars.
NOTE: “…the Parent-Student Handbook, which is the culmination of work on both school and diocesan levels…is the contractual agreement between our school and our families by which we all agree to operate” (Colwell 4).