'This isn't the 1950s': See the school dress code that's stirring controversy

Back to school ... or back to the 1950s? That's what some parents in Freeburg, Illinois are asking after a strict dress code was handed to their middle school-aged children.

At class registration for fifth-through-eighth grade students at the Freeburg Community Consolidated School District 70 on Aug. 1, students received a flyer with specific clothing instructions — particularly for young girls.

Rebecca Sheehan
The flyer given out to middle school students in Freeburg, Illinois.

Superintendent Tomi Diefenbach told NBC affiliate KSDK that the rules and regulations have not changed drastically from previous years. But some parents and students feel that the illustrations and instructions show a clear double standard.

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Young boys are instructed only to leave baggy pants and "pajamas" at home, as well as any clothing with offensive messages that promote drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Young girls, on the other hand, have a lot more red flags. Alongside curvaceous drawings, they are told that "short shorts, skirts or skorts," "spaghetti straps" and even sunglasses are off-limits.

"Clothing that does not provide adequate coverage of the body," is written as a no-no with an arrow pointed directly at one of the shapely cartoons. For the mere two figures of young boys sketched on the flyer, no such commandment is called upon them.

Rebecca Sheehan/Facebook
Parents in Freeburg are calling the latter half of the flyer particularly sexist towards young girls and their bodies.

But it's the latter half of the flyer that really sparked the controversy on social media.

It shows two images of headless girls standing adjacent to another — one dressed in a "do," the other in a "don't."

The image on the left shows a girl dressed in a long shirt covering the top half of her pants and is deemed "ladylike" and "school appropriate." A seemingly similar image of a girl dressed in a T-shirt and leggings on the right is labeled "distracting" and "revealing."

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Audrey Proctor, an 18-year-old Freeburg alumna, told TODAY that she was confused when she saw the oversized items in her younger sister's back-to-school shopping bag. She then took a look at the school's new dress code.

"Basically, I think it's taking a step back from what most girls are trying to promote these days, which is being able to wear clothes without our bodies being sexualized," Proctor said. "They're teaching young girls to cover themselves up at a time when they should be expressing themselves and finding who they are."

Citing the lack of rules for boys as a primary cause for concern, Proctor also pointed out that the phrase "reflect respect" printed on the bottom of the flyer is just as troubling.

"No matter what a fifth or eighth grader is wearing, a teacher or administrator should respect them," she said.

KSDK reporter Rebecca Sheehan posted the image of the flyer to her Facebook page, where commenters (particularly parents) expressed outrage.

"The bottom half of the page is insulting," wrote one commenter, while many agreed that its "antiquated" and "archaic" language exposed a long-running "double-standard" in the hallways of schools.

"This isn't the 1950s," wrote another. "We shouldn't be teaching girls to alter their dress as to not 'distract' the boys."

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Overwhelmingly, commenters took issue with the flyer being pointedly aimed at young girls, with many writing that its wording and undertones are sexist.

"A dress code is for everyone not just young ladies," noted another commenter. "Stop showing them that their bodies are strictly a sexual distraction."

"We keep teaching our young women that if they're not covered to our degree of acceptability, they are worthless, and their education is less important than that of a young man's," agreed another. "This is the problem."

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