While the intent of a recent Kenilworth Junior High School dress code assembly may have been to simply remind students of rules already in place, the message that the female student body left with was one of confusion and anger.
The controversy stems from a meeting Kenilworth Vice Principal Kathy Olmsted called with Kenilworth's female students last Thursday. The goal was to address what Kenilworth Principal Emily Dunnagan called a growing issue with some girls' revealing attire in the warmer school months, but many girls and their parents apparently left with the impression that certain clothing items, like skinny jeans and leggings, would be banned.
"Because of how the situation was handled, our original message was lost and kids got confused, leading to a lot of the problem," Dunnagan said Tuesday.
"Some of our female students have been wearing leggings that are too shear and we're seeing their underwear," said Dunnagan. "We have the same rule for boys and girls — no underwear is allowed to show. Because it was a problem we were having with our female students, and because we wanted them to feel comfortable, we took the time to speak to them privately about it."
Dunnagan, who was not at the assembly that took place during a 15-minute reading period, said that when Olmsted let the girls know they would not be allowed to wear leggings without a dress, skirt or long tunic over the top of them, girls began questioning the rules.
"During the conversation, other items like skinny jeans and yoga pants were brought up," said Dunnagan. "She (Olmsted) said something to the effect of telling the girls that one of the reasons they need to dress this way is because boys have raging hormones, which was not appropriate."
Following the confusion, Olmsted issued an apology to all the female members of the student body Friday for her handling of the meeting.
Dunnagan said the school has not, in fact, banned skinny jeans, yoga pants, or even leggings for that matter. Instead, they simply require the girls to wear a dress, skirt, shorts or a long shirt over the top of the leggings. "We want our students to keep the essential areas covered at school," she added.
Dave Rose, director of student services at Petaluma City Schools District, said that the dress code, which is universal for all schools in the district, is designed to keep students focused on learning. "While we want to take into account personal expression, we don't want any disruptions or distractions," said Rose.
Dunnagan pointed out that seeing underwear can be a distraction for anyone.