A school district in Suffolk, VA is considering a ban on ‘cross-dressing’ and claims that this policy change would protect students from harassment and bullying. According to Reuters, the school district board began considering this measure following reports from a local high school teacher that “male students were dressing like girls,” leading to complaints from classmates. The new dress code would bar students from wearing clothing “not in keeping with a student’s gender” and that "causes a disruption and/or distracts others from the education process or poses a health or safety concern." Board members are planning a vote on the issue in March.
It is important that media coverage of this story not present the proposed policy as a viable approach to end bullying. This proposed policy is extremely problematic and amounts to nothing more than preemptive victim-blaming. It is an “effort to end bullying” that places the responsibility for safety on bullying victims, demanding that they hide their identities while side-stepping the issues that lead to bullying in the first place. And as James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia rightly points out, "They're calling it cross-dressing, but if that individual was wearing clothes that reflect their gender identity, that's not cross-dressing, that's appropriate gender dressing." Rather than fostering a change in attitudes towards gender non-conforming expression, this policy would enforce the status quo.
GLAAD will continue to monitor this story and asks our readers to report on any problematic coverage.