Students Rally to ‘Save the Skirts’ Banned From San Diego Private Catholic High School - NBC 7 San Diego

Students Rally to ‘Save the Skirts’ Banned From San Diego Private Catholic High School

Faculty at Cathedral Catholic High School decided to do away with one article of clothing that appears to be involved in multiple dress code infractions – the skirt.

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    Dozens of students rallied outside their private Catholic school on Tuesday to "save the skirts" after administrators banned them from the dress code

    The decision was made after "thousands of hours of detention" were issued to students for modifying the length of uniform skirts, an email from Principal Kevin Calkins, Ph.D., said. 

    Calkins said the issue has gotten to the point where "male faculty feel uncomfortable addressing female students about the length of their skirts, and even female faculty have expressed frustration with the ongoing challenge of dress code," he wrote.

    Instead, starting next fall, female students will have the option of wearing pants, capri pants or Bermuda shorts. Male students have the option of wearing pants or shorts.

    The move -- which was first announced to students and parents through Calkins' email on Friday -- outraged some students who felt the move was sexist. 

    In response, students organized an online petition that had gathered more than 2,700 signatures by Tuesday and urged their classmates to gather outside the school with signs for a peaceful protest.

    Some parents joined students outside the school, several upset with the way the school handled the issue. 

    "If the administration had told us it was this big of a problem, I imagine the parents would have gotten involved," said parent Michelle Adams said. "But again, there's been no communication from the school.... email that was sent on Friday."

    The parents say they plan to hold more demonstrations, talk to the diocese and start their own petition asking for fellow parents to withhold donations until their concerns are heard.

    In response to the rally on Tuesday, Calkins issued a statement to NBC 7 that said in part, "It’s a practical solution to a problem that gets more attention than it’s worth." 

    Cathedral Catholic High School is a private school located in Carmel Valley serving approximately 1,600 students in grades 9-12. The school charges an annual tuition of $18,500.

    Read Calkins' full statement to NBC 7 here:

    “A dress code is a perennial challenge. It exists for three good reasons: to foster unity, to encourage modesty, and to minimize pressure to conform to particular styles or clothing brands. It applies equally to the young women and young men at our school.

    “Its purpose is to foster a faith-based environment where students are focused on learning and not on outward appearances.

    “One of the biggest challenges has been skirt length, and the distraction caused by teachers, administrators and students constantly dealing with it. Starting with the next school year, we have decided to just eliminate the problem and make the standards for male and female students the same. No more skirts means no more conflict over skirt length. Period.

    “It’s a practical solution to a problem that gets more attention than it’s worth, causes more upset feelings than it’s worth and takes away from why we have a dress code to begin with, which is to have students and faculty pay less attention to fashion and a lot more attention to issues involving faith, character and learning.”

    Here is the full text of the email sent by Cathedral Catholic HS Principal Kevin Calkins, Ph.D.: 

    Dear Students:

    I am writing to communicate some changes to the school dress code starting with the 2019-2020 school year. The most significant change is that skirts will no longer be an option for girls.

    Dress code is a perennial challenge. The dress code exists for at least three good reasons: to foster unity, to encourage modesty, and to minimize pressure to conform to particular styles or clothing brands. Basically we hope to foster a faith-based environment where students are focused on learning and not on outward appearances.

    NBC 7 Reporter Audra Stafford holds up a skirt from the school's dress code. At issue are the modifications made by some students to raise the skirt's length.

    The main challenge with dress code has been the length of girls’ skirts. The school has made many attempts to rectify this challenge. The administration has worked with the Parent Association, has issued thousands of hours of detention, has made school-wide announcements (e.g., CCTV, orientations), and has worked with students one-on-one. None of this has had the desired effect of maintaining an overall modest skirt length in compliance with the dress code. The school heard feedback that part of the issue is that the skirts offered by Dennis Uniform did not fit the variety of girls’ bodies who attend Cathedral. We then decided to allow greater flexibility in where students could purchase skirts, so long as they followed the minimum guidelines. That did not work either. The administration eventually opted against strictly enforcing current dress code guidelines because of the negative effect that could have on the environment. Male faculty feel uncomfortable addressing female students about the length of their skirts, and even female faculty have expressed frustration with the ongoing challenge of dress code. There are challenges with boys too, but nothing that will require a change in options.

    Instead of skirts, girls will be allowed to wear the following:

    · Pants

    · Capri pants

    · Bermuda shorts

    The color options for the above-mentioned are navy blue, black, or khaki. Denim fabric, leggings, and athletic wear are not allowed. Boys will also have the new color options for pants/shorts. In addition to holding boys more accountable to dress code guidelines (e.g., length of hair or facial hair), and implementing a restorative approach to dealing with dress code violations, there will be no other changes next year.

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