“It’s hard enough to get kids to concentrate on an algorithm— even without Jimmy sitting there in lipstick and fake eyelashes,” said Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
In some districts, administrators seek to define the line between classroom distraction and the student’s need for self-expression. A few years ago, when Dr. Alan Storm was assistant superintendent at Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, he oversaw legal and disciplinary matters.
Principals would ask him about dress code gender cases: “They’d say, ‘Johnny just showed up in a cutoff top! Should I suspend the kid or make him change his clothes?’ ” Dr. Storm recalled. “And I’d say, ‘Is there a bare midriff?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then it doesn’t violate your dress code. You have no right to make the kid change his clothes.’ “
Dress codes are all well and good, and I’m not suggesting that a Rocky Horror fishnets and suspenders getup is appropriate school wear, but if girls can wear pants, have short hair and play soccer, then for christ’s sake let the guys wear skirts if they want to.
Jeff Grace, faculty adviser for a gay-straight alliance club at a high school in Columbus, Ohio, recalls one student, born male and named Jack, who has long, straight hair and prefers to be referred to with a female pronoun. Jack is careful not to violate the dress code: she favors tops that are tapered but not revealing, flats, lip gloss.
“One day I heard a student say, ‘Man, there was a girl in the guy’s restroom, standing up using the urinal! What’s up with that?’ ” Mr. Grace recalled. Bathrooms can be dangerous for transgender students. But the other student replied off-handedly, “That wasn’t a girl. That’s just Jack.”