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Girls attending Appleton Academy in Bradford, England, will not be permitted to wear skirts. From September on, they will be forced to wear “gender-neutral trousers” instead.

Mrs. Helen Jones, the headteacher at the academy, stated in a letter to parents that the new uniform rules would create a “simplified”, gender-neutral uniform. This would stop an apparent epidemic of girls with skirts of “inappropriate lengths.”

One Side Says the Change is Welcome

Exceed Academies Trust told the Telegraph and Argus that the change was welcomed and accepted by pupils and parents alike:

In response to the policy change, the reaction from our pupils has been very mature; they have calmly asked the reason behind the decision and politely accepted the explanation provided. The majority of parents have responded with positive feedback and are supportive of the change and understand the reasons for it. Parents have been reminded of the ways in which they can contact the school if they have a concern and we will happily support them with this change in the lead up to the end of the school year. A series of assemblies will be held fully informing pupils of this minor change to uniform and an additional letter will go to parents before the end of the year.

But Not Everyone Agrees

However, the backlash has, in fact, been severe. A Year 10 pupil branded the policy “absolutely ridiculous”:

I really don’t like having the choice taken away from me. I like wearing a skirt because I find them comfortable, not for any reason other than that. Some people say that wearing a skirt makes you look like a tart and things like that. It’s just a piece of clothing, I don’t understand.

A mum of one of the pupils at the school was also scathing about the decision. She told the Daily Mirror that it was “disgusting and actually sexist”:

They’re not going to go and force the boys to wear skirts. Women from all the generations before this one wore skirts without any problems, what’s changed now? What’s really annoying is that the first any of us heard about the change was on social media. We didn’t get the letter until a day later.

A petition has also been set up by “The Real Student Voice of Appleton” on Change.org. It received over 400 signatures at the time of writing, arguing that the policy is a complete farce and should be overturned:

There are many reasons why we disagree with this new rule. Many girls struggle to find clothes that will suit their body type and the rule’s description of ‘ tailored loose grey charcoal trousers’ is simply not possible… Appleton have changed the rules of either having trousers to skirts to just wearing trousers all for the cause of gender neutrality. However, this rule is not the equivalent of gender neutrality. If so, shouldn’t the male students of the school be able to wear skirts? This simply does not add up.

The School Pushes Back Against the Criticism

The school responded to the criticism. They argued they had already seen “an increase in pupils wearing trousers through choice since the letter home.” However, the petition says this narrative is “completely false”:

Both students and parents have been using different social media platforms to address the problem and due to our (the students) age, we have not been taken seriously. In fact, many adults have insulted us by calling us ‘little tarts’, and have said we wear skirts for boys to look up them. One man even insinuated that its the girl’s fault for predators looking at them if they wear skirts. Also, a few students asked a teacher why else the rule was being placed and the teacher said that it was a good idea to ‘protect male staff’.

As it currently stands, it does not appear that the policy will be overturned in time for the start of the new academic year.

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