09/04/2012 01:33 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2012

Don't Bend Over: How Short Is Too Short for Shorts?

Maybe it's because I'm too old. Or maybe it's because I'm just plain jealous. Or maybe, seriously, it's because I train teachers and work with hundreds of adolescents. In any case, I'm seriously shocked at the lack of length of today's shorts and dresses.

The university where I teach is also home to a high school. I saw several car accidents nearly occur last week as girls wearing short shorts and dresses walked across the street, and adult men lost their focus on the road. I had to honk several time to get traffic moving.

I'm all for women's empowerment and self-expression, but the outfits the girls are wearing to school--as early as sixth grade--are leaving teachers and administrators in a quandary.

A school in Los Angeles recently sent home every girl wearing shorts it deemed too short. That almost started a revolt. At another school, the principal told an assembly of children that if stores only sold short shorts, perhaps they could invest in capris.

How many kids does a school need to send home in one day for lack of proper attire to get the message across? How can parents let their children leave the house wearing clothes best seen at the beach, in the privacy of their homes, or in a nightclub?

This problem must be plaguing schools across America this late summer and early fall, because it's hot, and short shorts and short dresses are what's available in many stores. The trend cuts across all socioeconomic and cultural boundaries. I work with teenagers from South Los Angeles to Santa Monica, and I'm constantly amazed at how short the shorts keep getting.

I asked several teenagers this weekend why they wear these clothes. They said that everyone else does! One even said, "I have the legs, so why not show them?" Yet another said, "They say it's a distraction to the learning environment; I say they shouldn't look." I asked teachers how they handle this situation. Some say their schools are enforcing strict dress codes, while others say it's left to teachers to decide. One teacher told me she makes girls wear their gym tops and sweatshirts around their waists when their outfits are inappropriate. Another said a girl told her she was cold. The teacher responded, "You're not wearing anything. What did you think you'd be?"

Well, I am taking action. This year when I was teaching, I spoke to several young ladies about the message they were sending out in the school setting and told them not to return to my classroom wearing clothes that are inappropriate for school. (By the way, I told several boys with sagging pants the same thing.)

How do I not keep sounding old or like a prude?

I'm not.

A young lady I was teaching got up, and I saw her butt cheeks. Another one got stuck to the chair. Others, seriously, can't bend over or even go up a flight of stairs without exposing themselves.
So, what can we and must we do?

First of all, schools across the country, including universities, have to band together to remind families and children of the universal code of self-respect and dressing appropriately for your environment. Proactive plans are much more effective than reactive actions that can seem arbitrary.

Second, young women need to understand that showing their bras, their bellies, and their entire legs sends a message of "look at me, don't get to know me." Women have worked way too hard to undo generations of progress for the sake of showing off beautiful young legs.

Third, we need to have some empathy for teenage boys and men. How in the world can they focus when girls are flaunting their bodies, and for what reason?

So am I creating a problem where one doesn't exist?


Last week alone I heard from dozens of upset educators, parents, and students. This will only get worse if we don't band together to lower the hemline just a couple of inches. Even Daisy Duke would say these shorts are too short.