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Leggings as pants: 'Cover your butts,' one principal tells girls

Nov. 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM ET

Image: Pippa Middleton wearing leggings as pants.
Neil Mockford / FilmMagic
Leggings as pants: Pippa Middleton may be able to pull off this trend and still look classy, as seen in this photo from Nov. 15, but some say it's not appropriate for school.

A high school principal in Minnetonka, Minn., has declared leggings a distraction and discouraged girls from wearing them at school. Dave Adney sent an email to parents last weekrequesting that students at Minnetonka High School “keep things covered up.” He says the girls used to wear longer shirts, but the shirts have gotten shorter, and this is a problem.

He reiterated his message in a statement to the Star Tribune: "Cover your butts up,” he said. “We're seeing too much."

Carolyn Miller has seen worse. As a middle school English teacher in Rogers, Ark., she finds low-cut tops and lower-cut jeans revealing rear cleavage or “whale tail” much more distracting.

“I think leggings and jeggings are perfectly acceptable if worn in a way that covers the student's rear end,” she says.

Miller added that she is not sure she would notice if a girl’s leggings did not offer full rear coverage. “Making sure student dress is appropriate has to be part of my job, but it certainly isn't at the forefront of my mind,” Miller says. “I usually have bigger fish to fry.”

Abby Lee is a high school senior from Arkansas who says the start of the legging trend a couple of years ago wasn’t a big deal at her school. “The faculty view was pretty much ‘as long as we can't see your underwear, you're fine.’” She doesn’t think girls should let too much skin show in an academic setting, but finds this kind of policy sexist. “It is more than a bit of a double standard to expect girls to be the ones to prevent 'distractions' with how we dress.”

Lee is spending her senior year on a Rotary Youth Exchange in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where girls from all over the world wear leggings, either with a skirt or with a regular T-shirt. “It's no more of a distraction here than it would be anywhere else.”

Girls at Minnetonka High argue that they should be allowed to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable. The principal seems to disagree, but insists there is no ban on leggings. This not the first time Adney has worked to maintain standards of propriety. He attracted media attention in 2006 with a series of hilarious videos that warned students about the “dangers of grinding” at the homecoming dance.

Teenagers in tight-fitting clothes are not the issue, says Miller. She accepts the trend on students, but would like to see leggings banned for parents and teachers. “The last thing my students want to see is my middle-aged nastiness,” she said. “That would definitely be a distraction.”

What do you think: Have leggings become too revealing, or do school administrators need to choose another battle?

Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA and Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? Her thoughts on marriage, motherhood, and life-after-40 have appeared in hundreds of magazines, websites, and anthologies.

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