School cracks down on leggings for 'distraction-free' learning

Ron Levine / Today
A school in California is the latest to ban leggings worn as pants.

Yet another school is cracking down on leggings.

Kenilworth Junior High in Petaluma, Calif. is making headlines for enforcing a conservative new dress code, which states that girls wearing leggings without something covering them such as shorts, skirts or dresses will not be allowed on campus. The news comes just days after a high school in Washington, D.C. also garnered attention for labeling a student's leggings "inappropriate."

Kenilworth Junior High initially sparked an uproar among students when administrators held an assembly on April 4 to inform students of the new policy.

Female students later claimed they had been told they could not wear anything too tight, including yoga pants, skinny jeans and leggings, because the clothing would distract male students.

But school staff clarified this week that they are not putting a widespread ban on all tight pants, and that under the new policy, only leggings that aren't covered up are not allowed.

“The concern my staff and I have is basically seeing underwear,’’ Kenilworth principal Emily Dunnagan told on Tuesday. “With girls, leggings can be very, very thin, and leggings are fine as long as there is something over the top of them. We want to keep the learning environment distraction-free.’’

School to student: Leggings worn as pants are inappropriate

Girls who are flagged for violating the dress code will not be sent home, but instead sent to the main office to change into pants or shorts. Boys wearing baggy pants that expose their underwear will also be in violation of the dress code and will be given a rope belt by the school to pull their jeans up.

School staff addressed students’ attire in the assembly, Dunnagan said, because administrators had received an increase in complaints over dress code violations, due to girls wearing sheer leggings that their undergarments could be seen through.

Some students are upset by the new regulations, arguing they limit their wardrobe options. “It takes away like half of my clothes because I have a lot of yoga pants and leggings, so everyone is kind of like mad about it,’’ student Makenna Mattei told local station KTVU.

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

But some parents spoke out in favor of the policy. “Boys need to be taught to respect women no matter what they’re wearing, and that’s a big deal,’’ parent Jerelyn Kruljac also told the TV station.

Dunnagan estimated she had about two dozen phone calls and emails from parents supporting the new dress code, and about seven from parents who were against it, in a school of more than 900 students.

“We met with some parents and talked to others to explain why we are doing this,’’ Dunnagan said. “We’re trying to keep the place distraction-free and focused on learning while teaching our students to be respectable.”

Kenilworth is not the first school to consider leggings that are not covered to be inappropriate. In addition to the student at Rockville High School in Washington, D.C.’s Montgomery County who was sent home because her shirt was deemed too short, a high school principal in Minnesota sent an email to parents last year requesting that students at Minnetonka High School “keep things covered up.”