Edward Shinkle, a student in Charlotte County, Virginia, recently challenged his high school’s gender-based dress code by wearing his mother’s skirt. The principal and assistant principal immediately forced him to go home and return with traditional male attire. Now Shinkle is fighting back by circulating a petition seeking support for him to wear a skirt and he has contacted the ACLU for a legal challenge.
The Charlotte County school code restricts attire or appearance that is distracting or disruptive. Superintendent Larry Dunn defended the code and school officials, who restricted Shinkle, by claiming that they kept a distraction out of the classroom. “It didn’t take long to figure out it was disruptive,” Dunn said. “That was obvious before he got off the bus.”
|“When I got off the bus that morning I noticed it wasn’t the students that were upset about it. It was the teachers,”|
According to Shinkle, his skirt distracted only the teachers and the other administrators. “When I got off the bus that morning I noticed it wasn’t the students that were upset about it. It was the teachers,” he said.
His mother agreed. “I think a mountain is being made out of a molehill,” said Leslie Kennedy. “They should have ignored it, and he never would have done it again. The bus driver ignored it. I ignored it. The other children in the house ignored it. But the two experts at the school didn’t ignore it.”
Shinkle thinks the issue is more about control than distraction. “I don’t feel like I was violating the dress code at all,” he said. “The school is trying to control how people dress so drastically.” Shinkle wore the skirt to support a female friend’s plan to step out of character and wear baggy pants. She did not follow through.
There must be something about the skirt that particularly irks government employees. Perhaps, the sight of a man in a skirt is so different that it may encourage students to question the fashion status quo. Then if students realize that skirts are indeed very comfortable for both genders, they may start to question the wisdom of the entire dress code.
|In an indirect way, Shinkle’s skirt actually threatens his principal’s job.|
In fact, students may realize that the government is wrong about a lot of things. They’ll start to question all gender restrictions, the bans on backpacks and even the lack of a fast food restaurant at school. They may even question why the government has a monopoly on education, which brings us to the real distraction for government school administrators. If students start to clamor for change, eventually they’ll want to go to private schools, which means that in an indirect way, Shinkle’s skirt actually threatens his principal’s job.
School officials are more worried about social change than about one student in a skirt. Therefore, they try to suppress all forms of expression that may lead students to think for themselves and inevitably question their role in the government’s penal system.
If school officials were actually worried about distractions, then they would get rid of the metal detectors, the drug-sniffing dogs, and the on-site SWAT teams. How can a student concentrate when he studies in a prison. Officials would also focus are the real distractions to academia such as noisy students and classrooms without air conditioners.
Edward Shinkle said that he has long been a social outcast with his schoolmates. He should actually refer to himself as an individual. But then his principal would definitely suspend him.