Emily Connolly is organizing a symbolic protest at her Cape Cod school, hoping that she can convince school officials to be flexible with their new rule banning form-fitting yoga pants.
Connolly, 16, will be a junior this fall at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, a vocational school that forbids hats, tank tops, visible undergarments — and now yoga pants and leggings.
Superintendent Robert Sanborn III, said the new dress code was enacted to promote employability skills and professionalism.
But Connolly wants students to wear the pants anyway on the first day of school, to protest a new rule they believe is just another way to oppress female students.
“We can’t help we were born girls,” Connolly said. “A pair of pants shouldn’t change a way of learning or attending classes just because they can be considered a distraction. We have voices at Cape Tech, and they need to be heard.”
The dress code addendum, passed in June by the school committee at the behest of school administrators, states that “extremely form-fitting apparel” must be worn with shorts or skirts on top, Sanborn said.
“Part of our framework for our school is employability skills, and there’s proper dress for that,” he said. “We’re in the education business, and we need to educate our students the reason for this policy, as well as explaining the implementation.”
When the school board announced they had enacted the new dress code earlier this summer, Connolly worked with a friend to create a Facebook event for the first day of school.
The event, titled “First Day = Yoga Pants,” asks girls to wear yoga pants and leggings to school on Sept. 2 to tell administrators they can’t “body shame” students, Connolly said. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 115 people had clicked “attending.”
Connolly said she understood breaking the policy on the first day of school could come with consequences, but the risk was worth it.
“My friends and I don’t plan on doing anything super-dramatic,” she said. “I hope it’s not a fight that we’ll have to put up. I’m totally willing to sit down and talk to them about it and see if we can work around it and come to an agreement around it.”
Sanborn saw the Facebook event Tuesday morning, and said the school’s administrators do not plan to punish any students who break the dress code policy initially. Instead, they hope to handle the disagreement with a “light touch.”
“When we institute policies such as this, we don’t take a heavy-handed approach,” he said. “It’s going to be a teachable moment. ... It’s going to take dialogue with our students.”