NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC. — Some of life’s questions are just destined to be left unanswered: Are leggings pants? Can skinny jeans be too skinny? Are either appropriate attire for high school students?
The New Hanover County School Board in New Hanover County, North Carolina, walked right into the flames of this debate when they proposed a ban on skinny jeans. To stoke the fire, they then asked their students point-blank on Twitter what they thought of the idea (Spoiler alert: They hated it).
The school district’s dress code, known as #Policy8520, proposes a restriction on “leggings, ‘skinny jeans’ or other excessively tight-fitting pants unless covered by a top or dress to the appropriate length,” that length being one that “cover[s] the posterior area in its entirety.”
It’s not an outright ban, but if you want to wear tight pants, its clear they need to be definitively under something.
Schools spokesman Valita Quattlebaum told CNN the proposal was born of faculty suggestions.
“We got some input from some of our principals asking for some support,” she said. “And the board decided to explore a policy that would help them.”
A bit of a minefield
Rick Holliday, deputy superintendent of the county schools, added that anticipating fashion trends and their impact can be a bit of a minefield.
“We’re basically trying to stay ahead of what might be disruptive to the learning environment,” he said. “Disruptive” attire, Holliday said, could be anything that invites bullying, unwanted attention, or in-class distractions.
Echoing this, New Hanover County School Board Vice Chair Jeannette Nichols told WECT the policy was suggested in part because “bigger girls” were being bullied for wearing tight clothing.
While leggings have long been a point of contention in school dress codes, New Hanover County students seemed to think coming for their skinny jeans — the most omnipresent of wardrobe staples — is akin to denying the very existence of clothing itself.
“The ban of skinny jeans wouldn’t work,” one student tweeted. “That’s all we own so unless you’re buying us new clothes…”
Though the proposal does not contain gendered language and skinny jeans are far from a female-only trend, some parents and students found the rule to be especially exclusionary for young women.
The policy will go back to a committee, along with some of the input the school board received online. Quattlebaum says the decision to put it all out there on Twitter was actually a suggestion made by a student advisory board.
“It’s something that we will continue to do for issues that impact students,” she said.
So will skinny jeans be the next big thing that students and faculty have to fight over? Holliday says that was never the intent.
“I don’t think it was ever the intent of the board to ban jeans, per se,” he says. “It’s just a matter of what’s being considered, and in some cases, a problem that the principals and staff are seeing.”