9 February 2009
This story about the schoolgirl whose skirt was too short has, I'm almost ashamed to say, made me laugh.
The reason? If kids don't take a blind bit of notice when parents and teachers try to enforce school rules on them in the correct way - ie, telling them to via their own natural authority - then a spot of insulting in front of the other kids is as good a way as any to do it.
This girl, aged just 13, had been told countless times to stop rolling her skirt up to show off more leg. She ignored the instruction, presumably thanks to the dangerous knowledge that schoolchildren have today of their 'rights' and that the tendency today for modern parents to blindly support their child, even when they are blatantly flouting school regulations, rather than give them the bollocking they deserve.
Okay, so wearing a skirt too short is hardly comparable a felony to daubing the C-word on the deputy headmaster's office door in indelible paint, which is what one lad in my year did. He was heavily punished. The other 15 year olds in the building laughed a lot. But it's a rule, like any other. Rules are there for a reason, and teachers are there to uphold the school rules so that disruption of lessons is minimised. A girl with a skirt too short holds up the entire learning process because every hormonal lad is staring at her legs rather than their textbooks, and every girl is jealously sniping to her friend that this leggy, 'developed' teenager is in fact something rather more sinister (ie, something they really want to be but haven't the nerve or the build to carry off). Not ideal for a crucial 50-minute lesson in which the atomic numbers of the inert gases have to be learned.
The teacher said, in desperation, that this girl looked like a 'slut' and that the shortened skirt 'does not do much for your cellulite'.
Awesome. Yet this teacher is being castigated. Okay, maybe it was unprofessional, but any school which kicks out a pupil, even temporarily, because she is showing too much thigh will be widely criticised for being so petty, so a short, sharp shock - even a verbal one - is good in the long term. Cruel to be kind. And let's face it, there'll be girls in her class who are saying the same thing and I bet they're not punished for it, even though it would be classed as bullying. So why punish the teacher?
In the national newspapers, this girl now has banner headlines and extreme close-up shots of her legs thanks to a supposed birthmark which the teacher seemingly mistook for cellulite. Those photos make the press look just perverted, frankly - the kind of thing which Private Eye likes to pillory with the word 'fruity'. If this girl is as mature as she hopes her clothing habits suggest, then she won't need counselling or pity or compensation; she'll just roll her skirt back to where it should be and get on with her life, as when she's 16 she'll have ample chance to show her legs off, should she so wish. It's up to parents to make sure their kids don't flout the rules and if they fail, don't blame an exasperated teacher for going overboard to try to make up for their failings.
The mother bleats: "Teachers should be giving children confidence for their future lives, not speaking to them in such a despicable way."
True. But prior to this teacher's comments, the teenager will have been instructed by other staff members to roll down her skirt. She has ignored this or, at the very least, done as she's told within eyeshot, then pulled the skirt back up again in the bogs when the same teacher was then out of the equation. The school told her parents, but they have steadfastly failed to instil any discipline into their child.
And this is where we get to. A teacher facing internal discipline, a parent whingeing about such beastly treatment of her perfect daughter and way too much of a 13 year old girl's legs in the national press. Well done everybody. Great work all round.