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5th-grader fights school district's policy on leggings: 'It shames girls'

Falyn Handley, 10, is challenging her school district's dress code that calls leggings a "distraction," arguing the policy unfairly targets females.
/ Source: Today

A 10-year-old girl is challenging her school district’s dress code that calls leggings a “distraction,” arguing the policy is outdated and unfairly singles out females.

Falyn Handley, a fifth-grader at Springdale Park Elementary School in Georgia, recently made a presentation to the Atlanta Board of Education urging for changes to the existing code. Currently, students are prohibited from wearing “skin-tight” clothing, including leggings and jeggings. Falyn also gathered more than 1,200 signatures in an online petition asking the board to remove the words “distraction” from the code.

Falyn Handley, 10, is trying to change her school district's student dress code policy on leggings in Atlanta.Courtesy of Honora Handley

“I don’t like the policy because it shames girls,” Falyn told TODAY. “I like wearing leggings. They’re affordable, comfortable and popular.”

She added in the petition: “Girls should not be pulled out of class or embarrassed for wearing leggings, which is happening now. Boys and girls should be able to manage their ‘distractions’ and reactions. I am not a distraction and me wearing leggings is not a distraction.”

Falyn’s mother, Honora Handley, told TODAY that the initiative to change the code began when her daughter was assigned a school project earlier this fall that involved coming up with a persuasive argument. Falyn was bothered when a friend in sixth grade told her she was sent to the principal’s office because she wore leggings to school. The friend was told that someone had to bring her a change of clothes or she had to wear a pair of men’s gym shorts if she wanted to return to class.

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Handley said the school board, which was already reviewing the decade-old policy, has been receptive to making changes. The board’s policy review committee will meet again to discuss the issue Tuesday, with a vote by the full board scheduled for early December.

Eshé Collins, head of the policy committee of the Atlanta Board of Education, told TODAY that she too believes the dress code is outdated.

“It’s been 10 years and a lot has changed. ...We want to make our policy more inclusive of everyone,” she said, noting Falyn and accompanying students' voices have been “highly influential.”

“I’m honored they feel empowered to speak to their elected officials,” said Collins. “When I was their age, I didn’t feel that way. It’s a sign that our students are engaged and that’s what we want.”