FILE - This undated photo provided by Tween Brands in 2008 shows models wearing tights and leggings. It might seem a reasonable enough request at a time when school dress codes a€” and even school uniforms a€” are common and often supported by teachers and administrators who frequently complain about students who push the limits of good taste, and the parents who let them (and may even push those limits themselves).
When safety isn't at issue, says Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the courts tend to throw the cases back to the schools and parents, so they can come up with solutions together. It's not always easy, since many people have a different notion of what's appropriate and what's not a€” and what's distracting, and what's not. They denied that they acted because leggings distract boys, as has been alleged by some parents. However, parents who've attended school meetings, and students who dislike the policy, seem most troubled by an inconsistency in enforcement.
Parents Kevin and Juliet Bond wrote an open letter to the district after their 13-year-old daughter Lilly sensed unfairness and asked them to address it. Members of the advisory board say the dress code policy will be reviewed for the next school year.
There are those who argue that the best way to handle the dress code dilemma is to mandate uniforms, such as the blue pants and white shirts worn by Chicago Public Schools students.
After she shaved her head, 9-year-old Kamryn was suspended from her public charter school in Grand Junction, Colo.
Now, because of her daughter's experience, Renfro says she catches herself paying attention at school events to dress code violations a€” earrings that might be too big, or a boy's hair that is longer than shoulder length.


Haley Bocanegra, a 17-year-old junior from Riverside, Ill., regularly pushes the limits even further at her school, sometimes dressing like a boy, or wearing wigs and goggles for a "Steampunk" outfit, or a Japanese anime costume.
At least one former teacher who's now an expert in education law advises schools to continue to focus instead on safety a€” and to ignore students' unusual dress, if it's not disruptive or disrespectful in some way. Beyond that, Nancy Hablutzel, a professor of education at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, says consistency is important. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggings have become a clothing accessory that's increasingly controversial a€” and seemingly, the favorite new target of the school dress code. For example, a federal court agreed with a school district in Morgan Hill, Calif., after some high school students were told not to wear American flag T-shirts on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo in 2010. Just a few weeks ago, the school's own website said leggings were banned, when apparently they were not, school officials now say. But few disagree that there are serious issues at hand here a€” among them, whether girls are being shamed and unnecessarily embarrassed at a time when they're already starting to feel more aware of their changing bodies. They claim that some girls are "dress-coded" more than others, perhaps because they are more physically developed. She's had warnings, she said, but never more than that, when other girls have had to put their gym shorts over their outfits if they're in dress code violation.
I mean, it's sweatshirts and comfy pants," says Juliet Bond, an author and professor of women's studies at a Chicago liberal arts college.
The key, school board member Suni Kartha said, would be to come up with a clear, consistent policy with as little "judgment" as possible.


Mark's Episcopal School, a private school for preschool through eighth grade in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. So why are you making a big deal about it?" the honors student asks, showing them the student handbook to prove she's not violating the code.
Haven Middle School in Evanston, just north of Chicago, took what turned out to be a contentious stand: If you wear leggings, you need to have a shirt or skirt over them that reaches at least down to your fingertips. The worry was that the shirts would incite conflict with the school's many Hispanic students. Then there was the matter of yoga pants, which are tight like leggings, but flared at the bottom. When her students have the occasional out-of-uniform day, she says, she feels like they're more distracted, even if there's no attire she deems inappropriate.
She's the mother of a third-grader Kamryn Renfro, who recently gained national attention when she decided to shave her head to support her 11-year-old friend Delaney Clements, who has cancer and lost her hair after chemotherapy. Did the fingertip rule also apply to those types of pants, especially when no one could tell the difference if they were tucked into boots, which is also popular style among teens?



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