When the weather gets warm and the classrooms get steamy, kids finally get to shed their layers for T-shirts and shorts — that is, as long those clothes adhere to their school's dress code.
For one mom, Dr. Catherine Pearlman (who just happens to be a parenting expert and coach), it's not quite as simple as buying clothes that fit the rules.
In an open letter on Today.com's parenting forum entitled, "Invitation for Principal to Take My Daughter Shopping After Dress Code Violation," Pearlman wrote:
"Thank you for sending a note home for the second day in a row to say my daughter was dressed inappropriately for school. I’d like to offer an additional thank you for forcing her to change into large mesh shorts that have been worn by only god knows who and potentially never washed.
"To reward you for treating my daughter with such concern, I am cordially inviting you to take my daughter shopping.
Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck.
She is 5’7” and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms.
She doesn’t like anything pink or purple or frilly.
She won’t wear pants because she gets overheated easily. Trust me I’ve seen this. It will cause a scene in the school yard.
She absolutely will not wear a dress either.
No item of clothing can have a logo visible because to her that’s not cool. She will however, wear any type of superhero, Green Day or USFL T-shirt if you can find them. You might be able to try for an occasional Beatles reference but that’s touch and go.
Now, don’t forget that you will have to find something in the stores that also meets with your dress code requirements. Here are the tricky areas that are most difficult to avoid. As per your policy she cannot wear tank tops. Shorts and skirts must not extend to the end of the fingertips (This is a toughie.)"
In a P.S., she noted perhaps the most pertinent point: "I forgot to thank you for making it clear to my daughter that her body is somehow a distraction, either to herself or to the boys. I thought she might have missed the message earlier in the year when the gym teacher told her she couldn’t wear yoga pants because the boys aren’t able to control themselves. I appreciate how hard you are working to drive the point home."
"I forgot to thank you for making it clear to my daughter that her body is somehow a distraction, either to herself or to the boys. I appreciate how hard you are working to drive the point home."
In an interview with Yahoo Style, Pearlman points out she didn't actually send the letter, but her reasoning has certainly struck a chord.
"Just had a conversation with my Middle School Son. He said boys don't get dress coded...only the girls. The boys wear clothes with pot leaves on them and apparently that's appropriate but a girls stomach is cause for PE clothes to be worn in lieu of what her parents felt was appropriate to wear to school," wrote one commenter on the Today site.
"I remember the days when our dress code stated that we (girls) couldn't wear pants to school. We know how that turned out. It's time for your daughter and friends to strike. It worked for us," noted an older reader.
Pearlman also says that dress codes discriminate specifically against tall or overweight girls, who can't wear the shorter styles now in stores without breaking dress codes.
“I wouldn’t let my daughter go to school with her butt hanging out, but I also don’t think she needs to wear bermuda shorts when no one else is wearing them," she tells Yahoo Style. "It is hard enough being an adolescent girl without additional pressure of being the one kid who sticks out.”
Girls' clothing has apparently always been an issue for school boards, from too-tight leggings to shirts that reveal their collarbones. And while there has been the rare occasion of boys being discriminated against (for example, for long hair and earrings), on the whole, it's girls who receive the message loud and clear: you're the problem. You're the distraction. You need to change.
It also, points out Brock University's associate professor Shauna Pomerantz in a 2015 interview with CBC, is insulting to boys, who are assumed to be helpless in the face of temptation.
"The message is unbelievably negative. Boys are aggressive. Boys are out of control. Boys don't know how to think. Boys are disrespectful."
"The message is unbelievably negative," she said. "Boys are aggressive. Boys are out of control. Boys don't know how to think. Boys are disrespectful."
With more and more parents pushing back, perhaps schools will start to consider how their rules are affecting the very children they're trying to educate — and maybe even make it a teaching moment.