Why Did This School Make Female Students Wear Longer Skirts?

Photo: Getty Images.
Female students at a New Zealand high school have been told to modify their uniforms, and the rationale is pretty contentious: to prevent female students from distracting their male peers and teachers.

At Auckland's Henderson High School, approximately 40 female students in grade 11 (a.k.a. sophomore year) were told by the school's deputy principal, Cherith Telford, that their skirts needed to be no shorter than knee-length. That may not seem like too much to ask, but the explanation for mandating more modest skirts is questionable: The new rule is intended to “keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas, and create a good work environment for male staff," according to The Guardian.

The school's principal, Mike Purcell, defended the uniform policy enforcement to New Zealand news network Newshub. The institution's uniform rules "include a stipulation that the hemline of female students’ skirts must be on the knee, no higher," Purcell said in the statement. "As principal, I make no apology for insisting on high standards throughout the school and I have high expectations. That includes wearing the uniform according to the agreed rules."

Of course it's the reasoning behind the requirement causing a stir, not the actual skirt length. “The rules themselves aren’t the problem; the problem is when these codes target girls specifically because their bodies are sexual and distracting,” Sade Tuttle, a Henderson High School student, told Newshub.

Singer Erykah Badu took to Twitter Monday evening in agreement with the above, stating: "There was an article ruling that high school girls lower their skirts so male teachers are not distracted. I agreed because... I am aware that we live in a [sex-driven] society. It is everyone's, male and female's, responsibility to protect young ladies..." She concludes, nothing that, "If I had a school I would make sure that the uniform skirt length was a nice knee length."

There have been a few similar dress code incidents in the past few months in the U.S. Back in September, cheerleaders at a northern Idaho high school were asked to start wearing leggings or sweatpants under their skirts after their uniforms were deemed inappropriate beyond the sidelines. Then, in October, a student body president in South Carolina wrote an open letter to her school after being sent home because her skirt was considered too short, and the note quickly went viral, as Buzzfeed reported.

What do you think of this school's justification for its new skirt policy (and Badu lending her support)? Let us know in the comments below.
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