A homework assignment prompted this determined 10-year-old to take a stand against a school policy that body shames girls for wearing leggings.
Falyn Handley, a fifth-grade student at Springdale Park Elementary School in Georgia, is going up against her school district’s dress code that prohibits “skin-tight,” clothing, referring to garments such as leggings as a “distraction.” Handley started an online petition, deeming the rule that was implemented a decade ago “outdated,” and urging fellow students to sign it and advocate for change. It garnered more than 1,200 signatures in one month.
“I wear leggings all of the time. They’re (90) percent of my closet. Girls shouldn’t be told how to dress. They should be respected regardless of what they’re wearing,” Handley tells Moneyish. “They should be proud of their bodies and not be body shamed or feel embarrassed.”
The petition started out as a school project to create a persuasive argument. Falyn was inspired to speak up against the Atlanta Board of Education after her sixth grade friend was sent home for wearing leggings to middle school and was told that if she wanted to return to class, she’d have to change into a pair of men’s gym shorts.
“My daughter was completely shocked by this,” Honora Handley, Falyn’s mother, tells Moneyish. “She felt that the way the dress code was really denying the girls an education was embarrassing and humiliating.”
So her fifth grader started doing her research, using the backlash United Airlines faced for banning teenage girls from a flight for wearing leggings as an example and looking up other school dress codes that are more liberal.
Falyn, a Girl Scout who says she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, conquered her fear of public speaking when she mustered up the courage to address a crowd of school policy makers at a board of ed meeting.
“I was very nervous the first time I spoke. I’ve never done any public speaking before so it was a big step forward. I decided to do it I believe that girls can change the world,” she said.
Then she rallied her girl squad together.
“They’re all very supportive and said ‘good job’ and some wanted to help. I got a couple of the girls to show up to the next meetings and speak,” she says.
The board is the latest to come under fire for telling women how to dress. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives was criticized for banning a female reporter from the Speaker’s Lobby for wearing a dress deemed “inappropriate” just because her shoulders were showing. And in 2014, Montana lawmakers tried to ban women from wearing leggings to work on the house floor and said they should “be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.” But after much uproar, they vaguely revised the rules simply to “business casual.”
The Atlanta Board of Education agreed to take out the word “distracting” from the dress code and will meet next month to review the policy. The Board of Education did not immediately return a Moneyish request for comment, but will reportedly decide if it will revise the dress code by January.
“They talked about adding a no-body shaming clause, which my daughter volunteered to write,” says Honora. “It’s been a really positive experience for her to learn how to make these policy changes. I think she’s taking a moral stance for everyone. When you are embarrassed or ashamed about your body, or what you’re wearing, that stays with you your whole life.”
By Jeanette Settembre, Moneyish