Seventeen-year-old Amanda Durbin was allegedly sent home from school due to an alleged dress code violation last Friday, and is speaking out about the way her clothing was evaluated. The Kentucky high school student claims that she was forced to kneel before her male principal so that he could measure the length of her skirt, an experience that left her feeling “embarrassed” and “humiliated,” she told BuzzFeed News. Principal Tommy Hodges said in an interview with local station WKBO Monday, "As of a teacher's meeting Wednesday afternoon, we've told the teachers we need to be more consistent and we need to look at the dress code to make sure we're enforcing it." Hodges has not yet commented on why the measurement allegedly involved kneeling, but Bustle has reached out for comment.
According to Durbin, who was wearing a sweater dress over leggings at the time, the enforcement of dress code has resulted in a surge of students being cited with dress code violations. In an interview with WBKO, Durbin estimated that “at least 30 to 40 or more girls” had been taken out of class and either sent home or instructed to change clothing. The school has responded to the allegations by saying to WBKO that the dress code remains the same as it has been for the past three years.
Durbin said that on Friday, she donned leggings and a red sweater dress that she measured as falling five inches above her knee, well within the dress code. Midway through the school day, she claims a teacher sent her to the office, saying that her skirt was too short.
At the office, Durbin was allegedly told she would have to kneel so that the principal could measure the distance from the bottom edge of her skirt to the floor. She told BuzzFeed that she felt uncomfortable with the idea and asked that her parents be present. It took two hours for her parents to arrive, during which time she wasn’t allowed to return to class. Instead, she spent much of her school day sitting in the administrative office. When her parents got to the school, Durbin claims that Principal Hodges remarked that he “didn’t see anything wrong with her outfit.” Bustle has reached out for Hodges' comment on this allegation, and will update upon response.
Nevertheless, according to Durbin, Hodges allegedly had Durbin kneel on the floor, and, when he measured her, he found that her skirt was five inches from the ground and thus didn’t violate the dress code. However, he allegedly then had her walk around the room with her hands in the air, and then kneel down again. Predictably, the dress had ridden up, and when he measured her this time, the edge of the dress was eight inches from the floor. (Hodges has not commented on the second measurement or the reasoning behind it, but Bustle has reached out.) Durbin was sent home for violating the dress code, and thus missed most of her school day.
Durbin told BuzzFeed, “I didn’t really appreciate having to get down on my knees, especially while I was in a dress.” She added, “It did make me feel a little embarrassed, a little insecure of myself.”
Principal Hodges defended the school’s decision, telling WBKO, “If the gap between the floor and the garment is more than six inches it’s out of dress code.” He also said that girls weren’t the only ones being charged with dress code violations and claimed that multiple boys had also been cited for disobeying rules against skin-revealing holes in jeans.
This isn’t the first time that female high school students have protested school dress codes. Last year saw a rash of cases in which young women claimed that dress codes burdened female students unfairly, putting the onus on them to cover up and avoid “distracting” male students. Many of these female dress-code-violators were sent home from school and even suspended for such infractions as exposing their shoulders and collarbones and wearing leggings, which they argued was evidence of schools valuing the educational needs of male students over those of female students.
In this case, Durbin seems to be objecting to two separate issues: The dress code policies themselves, but also her school administration’s method of enforcing those policies. Regardless of the validity of her school’s skirt-length rule, the alleged act of telling a teenaged girl to get on her knees in front of an administrator — so that he can measure her clothing — is inherently problematic. The mere fact that she felt uncomfortable enough with this system to request the presence of her parents should be a sign to the school that this is an inappropriate way to measure students' clothing. The school system told WBKO that the council in charge of creating the dress code is open to discussing changes to the code; hopefully, these discussions will also include a conversation about how to evaluate students’ dress-code compliance in a more appropriate way.