Tennessee High School Punishes 40 Girls For Wearing Leggings -- Why That's Not Okay

Shelley Hazen

About 40 high school girls in Tennessee were punished last week for wearing leggings in school without the appropriate top, skirt, or dress as required by the dress code.

Administrators at Mt. Juliet High didn't really have a problem with leggings, per se, but weren't happy to see a crowd of teenage girls apparently exposing their figures to their classmates.

"The bottom line is, the tops weren't long enough," Wilson County Schools spokeswoman Amelia Hipps told the Tennessean. "It didn't have anything to do with the leggings, it was what was [worn] over the leggings not meeting student dress code. It was just a matter of, there were several, roughly 40 female students that didn't follow the dress code and it caught the attention of a female teacher and so at that point they have to take action."

The dress code allows students to wear leggings, but only if they wear something over them that extends at least three inches above the middle of the knee. The students found in violation of that dress code were removed from class, warned, and their parents called.

When the school day was done, eight girls of the 40 were still in violation.

Both parents and students were surprised and confused by the sudden punishments since that part of the code had never been enforced. One the students, 18-year-old Ashton Cable, said the teens were told to either sit in the cafeteria, endure in-school suspension, or go home and change, WKRN reported.

"When I walked in, there was at least 50 or so girls standing around wearing all types of outfits of all different sorts. So it wasn't just me. It happened to a lot of other girls too. I guess they are just trying to get it across that leggings should be under, like wear under dresses and long t-shirts but they should not be considered pants."

Students responded to the punishment with a hashtag, #FreeTheLeggings.

Only last month, some enterprising young women at a high school in South Carolina were angry enough about their school's new dress code that they adopted The Scarlet Letter's sinful "A" as a protest against what they considered a sexist policy, Mic reported.

The movement was started by Reese Fischer, a junior at the Charleston County School of the Arts, who called on her fellow students to protest a policy that many found offensive because "their outfits are being held at a higher importance than their education."

"In the summer, you see guys walking around in muscle tank tops with half their sides hanging out and their pants hanging down, and they don't get called out for that," Fischer told a local paper.

These girls hit hard with their own hashtag, #NotADistraction. Girls all over the country joined in to argue that girls' education is more important than their clothes.

Whether or not this Tennessee school had the same motivation for punishing 40 girls for wearing the comfy pants was not specified.

Post writer Sophia Herbst explained that teen girls don't wear leggings or yoga pants to be sexy but comfortable. Nonetheless, school administrators keep insisting otherwise, with some suggesting the pants distract boys and cause them to have impure thoughts.

Dress codes like the one in Tennessee, and the ensuing punishments when they're broken, teach girls their bodies are more important than their minds, and they garner more notice and interest than anything they may achieve or say. They also teach girls, Herbst wrote, to see themselves "in a sexualized gaze, from an outsider's point of view."

In other words, dress codes make girls feel like they're on display -- and not for the right reasons.

What do you think? Should leggings and other "provocative" clothing be banned from schools? Why or why not?

[Photo By Lisa A / Shutterstock]