Education

Bay High girls feel ‘sexualized’ after being told their leggings distract faculty

These are some of the memes Bay High students were sharing after the females were called into an assembly and told they were wearing leggings inappropriately, distracting faculty members.
These are some of the memes Bay High students were sharing after the females were called into an assembly and told they were wearing leggings inappropriately, distracting faculty members. Sun Herald

Bay High School moms are appalled their daughters were singled out Thursday and called into an assembly about the leggings they wear on “free-dress days,” saying faculty members are sexualizing their daughters and unfairly singling them out when male students show their underwear in sagging pants.

Students at the school generally wear uniforms. Students can wear regular clothes on the “free-dress days” Bay-Waveland schools use as an incentive for good behavior, grades or attendance.

Principal Amy Coyne assembled the female students Thursday, telling them their leggings were distracting faculty and they needed to cover up, said three moms interviewed by the Sun Herald.

“That’s what alarmed me as a parent,” said Schyler Wiecek, whose 14-year-old daughter is in ninth grade at Bay High. She said the girls aren’t trying to look like Instagram models. They just want to be comfortable.

“To me, we shouldn’t be teaching our daughters that they are a distraction for what they wear,” she said. “It’s just objectifying these young girls for thinking in that mindset. They are wearing leggings to be comfortable in school. They are not wearing leggings to be sexy as young children.”

The principal could not be reached to comment. She was out Friday with the flu, but school Superintendent Sandra Reed said she finds it hard to believe Coyne, whom Reed taught in high school, said anything inappropriate.

“The good news is, this has been a learning experience and we are in the process of developing a dress code for free-dress days,” Reed said. She said female students who wear leggings should have on shirts or blouses that cover their behinds. She also said the same goes for boys, who are appropriately disciplined when they wear sagging pants with underwear showing.

Female students would not have been singled out, she believes, unless there was “an abundance of problems” with the leggings.

But female students were insulted that their male counterparts were not called in, too, several moms said.

“Why is it OK for boys to show their underwear all day?” mom Carrie Middelweerd asked. “That’s not appropriate if the girls can’t wear leggings. It’s ridiculous.”

During the assembly, one female student stood up and asked about the sagging pants and underwear on boys, three moms said. The student was sent to the office but was back in school Friday.

Reed said: “Dr. Coyne is extremely reasonable. She is very, very student-centered. I find it hard to believe that a student asked a reasonable question in a respectful way and was asked to leave.”

Reed found out on social media that parents were upset.

Students immediately began creating and sharing memes, images with humorous text pasted on top that are copied and spread on the Internet. Some students were also planning to wear leggings in protest Tuesday, including males, Wiecek said.

“I think it’s really important to point out that we are all in this together and we’re trying to build a partnership between our students, our parents and the faculty,” the superintendent said. “I don’t think we’re likely to solve problems with the news media in the middle of it.

“We’re more than happy to listen to parents who have concerns and to rectify those.”

Middelweerd wishes the girls hadn’t been singled out and is uncomfortable that faculty members would find her daughter “distracting.” She herself likes to wear leggings.

“It feels like I’m in my pajamas all day long,” she said. “They’re pants. That’s all they are.”

Leggings are skin tight, but so are skinny jeans, Wiecek said. She said male students have not been singled out because their derrieres show in tight pants and their underwear often hangs out even when they wear their khaki uniform pants.

A group of Bradenton, Florida, students discuss their reaction to what happened to classmate Lizzy Martinez when she didn't wear a bra to school, and how they support the Bracott movement by using social media and speaking out.

Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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