After one of her friends was sent home for violating a school dress code policy that bans leggings, a 10-year-old is fighting back with a protest and petition against her city’s school district.
Falyn Handley, a fifth grade student at Springdale Park Elementary school in Atlanta, started a petition on Change.org to change the Atlanta public school policy that bars students from wearing "skin-tight" clothing like leggings and jeggings to school. The policy deems the popular legwear "a distraction."
In an interview with Today, Falyn says the policy is unfair to girls in her school.
“I don’t like the policy because it shames girls,” she said. “I like wearing leggings. They’re affordable, comfortable and popular.”
In the petition, Falyn wrote that she hasn’t been able to find a single study that links students wearing the pants to poor academic performance. She also presented her case to the school dress code policy committee and held a protest complete with signs outside of the school.
“Girls should not be pulled out of class or embarrassed for wearing leggings, which is happening now,” she wrote. “Boys and girls should be able to manage their ‘distractions’ and reactions."
In the past we’ve seen schools punish and shame girls for not complying with strict dress codes in the name of not “distracting” their male classmates. In September, a Missouri high school student was told that she shouldn’t wear certain shirts because "plus-size women need to dress accordingly," and was even called “busty” by a teacher in front of other students.
Falyn said in the petition that it is unfair to label students as “distractions” for what they wear in class.
“I am not a distraction and me wearing leggings is not a distraction,” she wrote. “The world is full of distractions, but how you react to situations is YOUR problem."
According to Falyn’s mother Honora Handley, Falyn had the idea to challenge the school district after she was assigned a project that involved creating a persuasive argument. She was also inspired by a friend in the sixth grade who was forced to either change or wear men’s gym shorts for the rest of the day because she wore leggings to school.
So far the petition has 1,332 signatures—just shy of its stated goal of 1,500. The school board will have a public meeting to address the policy in December.
It appears that Falyn’s argument has convinced some members of the board.
“It’s been 10 years and a lot has changed,” Eshé Collins, head of the policy committee at the Atlanta Board of Education, told Today. “We want to make our policy more inclusive of everyone.”
Collins also mentioned she is impressed with Falyn for creating the petition and standing up to her school district.
“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.”