New York-based mother Dr. Catherine Pearlman recently addressed her issues with her daughter’s middle school dress code by penning an open letter to the school’s principal.
In the note, published on Today, Pearlman, who founded the parenting site The Family Coach, details the struggles 13-year-old daughter Casey faces when it comes to finding styles that properly abide by her school’s policies.
“Dear Middle School Principal: Thank you for sending a note home for the second day in a row to say my daughter was dressed inappropriately for school,” she sarcastically begins the letter. “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.”
She then lists the specifications for Casey’s clothing, who she describes as 5’7” and “built more like her father,” with, “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,” she states. “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.”
She describes how hard it will be for the principal to find clothing that fits these specifications — and also abides by the school’s code: “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.) So, if I were you (and I’m glad I’m not) I’d focus on the shorts first. She has very long fingers which seems to make finding shorts that won’t get her sent to the principal’s office impossible. (On the bright side the piano teacher says those fingers are an asset.)”
She signs the note as ‘Sick Of The Dress Code Mom’ and adds, “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.”
While Pearlman shares with Yahoo Style the note wasn’t actually sent to the school’s principal — and was written more to drive the point home about the code — her daughter did send her own note on the issue.
“The response was lame and just put the blame on the district for the policy,” Pearlman tells Yahoo Style. “The principal said she was only enforcing it. My daughter is graduating in 2 weeks so we just let it go.”
She says that she thinks the dress code at her daughter’s middle school specifically targets one group at the school.
“The dress code unfairly discriminates against tall or overweight girls,” she says. “The current styles are for shorter shorts. 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. It is hard enough being an adolescent girl without additional pressure of being the one kid who sticks out.”
The warm weather also affects the styles her daughter tends to sway towards. “We also live in a hot, dry climate. My daughter gets overheated easily. She always has, and it has caused her to faint or have seizures (this only when she was little). She doesn’t wear pants or long sleeves, ever, so she is as frustrated with the dress code as I am. Shopping has truly been the biggest pain.”
Not only is finding suitable clothing difficult, but Pearlman also believes the dress code sends the wrong message to students. She thinks some of them don’t even understand why they are being forced to dress in such a way. “Honestly she is kind of baffled about what the big deal is about tank tops or shorts,” Pearlman says on her daughter’s reaction to the code. “She doesn’t flaunt her body.”
The mother and daughter’s suggestions in revising the dress code? “Use your own judgement. Allow tank tops because I don’t think shoulders are really a problem for anyone,” Casey says.
Pearlman, on the other hand, would wipe it completely. “I would get rid of the dress code. If there are specific students whose wardrobe is causing a stir than deal with that one student as needed. For the vast majority of kids this isn’t an issue,” she says. If there had to be a code, she thinks it should only say, ‘Clothing must not interfere with learning.’ “Avoiding gang symbols, drug paraphernalia and guns seems appropriate as well,” she adds.
While Pearlman believes the intent of setting dressing restrictions for the students was never to send a negative message to the student body, she believes the meaning attached to the code has changed — and not in a good way.
“I think in general dress code might have started as a good idea to prevent outrageous outfits, but they have morphed into body shaming policies mostly for the girls,” she shares. “Some principals and teachers take it too far.”
“My hope is that my letter starts a conversation. I don’t have all of the answers but I know what isn’t working,” Pearlman says.
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