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US Army Commander Supports Students Protesting the Ban on Skirts at San Diego Private Catholic High School

Cathedral Catholic High School principal told parents and students that the decision was made after "thousands of hours of detention" were issued to students for modifying the length of uniform skirts.

A parent serving as a U.S. Army commander in Afghanistan sent an email in support of students and parents protesting a decision to ban skirts from the dress code of Cathedral Catholic High School.

"I do not support the ban (in both the way it was rolled out and the ban period)," LTC Leah G. Smith, DVM, MPH writes in support of students protesting the removal of skirts from the Carmel Valley private school's dress code.

"I’ve got enough trouble over here in Afghanistan fighting for some semblance of equality for others - I didn’t expect to be doing it for my daughter and other girls back home," LTC Smith writes.

Smith's daughter is one of the students affected by the change in dress code communicated by Principal Kevin Calkins, Ph.D. on Friday, May 17. 

Students have rallied outside the school to "save the skirts," arguing they should have a choice in what they wear.  

Calkins told parents and students that the decision was made after "thousands of hours of detention" were issued to students for modifying the length of uniform skirts.

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.

In addition to an online petition, one of the parents assisting students in their protest told NBC 7 there is a meeting scheduled for next week between school administrators and student leaders. 

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

Parents have said they plan 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.

Here is the email from LTC Smith that was shared with NBC 7: 

......I do not support the ban (in both the way it was rolled out and the ban period). I’ve got enough trouble over here in Afghanistan fighting for some semblance of equality for others - I didn’t expect to be doing it for my daughter and other girls back home. 

I would however comply with the change in dress code (even though I don’t support it) if it was determined that truly the majority of families favored it, and it had been given the proper open forum to discuss it. Any unilateral, arbitrary, uninformed decision made by singular groups or individuals is a red flag to me. Even if the ultimate outcome is still the same, a better, rational process needs to be followed to get to that conclusion. 

I don’t understand how the administration could even suggest that the majority of families support the ban when no data has been collected to support that statement, as far as I know. Misinformation, lack of critical thinking and lack of scientific method is becoming pervasive in our society, and I am disappointed that an institution of learning is falling prey to that. 

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox. Thanks again Michelle for getting our voices heard. 

Leah G. Smith, DVM, MPH, Dipl ACVPM

LTC, VC

Commander, 149th MDVSS (FWD)

USFOR-A Veterinary Theater Consultant

Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

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’s Audra Stafford reports on a rally held outside of Cathedral Catholic HS to protest the decision to ban skirts from the private schools dress code.

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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