Teenager's clothing has been the subject of much comment through the decades. The Tri-Cities wasn't spared the "knee-jerk" reaction to fashion's shorter skirts in the 1960s.
Lower those dresses, Kennewick girls told
Published on February 5, 1961
By Jack Briggs
Herald staff writer
Above-the-knee skirts are okay in fashion magazines, but not in Kennewick's classrooms.
That seems the stand of the principal who Wednesday suspended for the remainder of the week three sophomores whose bare knees offended authority and led to a dress crackdown which prompted a reprisal from the boys, threats from parents...and stony silence from school officials.
High School Principal T. H. Bennett had "no comment" about the circumstances which led to drafting rules, sent parents Thursday. which forbid --
Skirts which are on or above the knee-cap.
Sweaters which are "uncomfortably small."
Pin curls, scarves or odd-colored hair tints.
Spaghetti-strap sun dresses or sheer blouses without a jacket.
Dresses with low necklines.
Verboten for Boys are:
Low-slung trousers. All must have either a belt or suspenders, exempt are the fashionable continental grip-top style.
Shirts open lower than the second button from the top.
White T-shirts or undershirts worn as outside shirts.
No "dress-up" days are allowed for either sex, and no group except the Pep Club is allowed to dress alike.
While school authorities are staying mum about the restrictions, parents are not.
"It's no business of the teachers what our children wear," said the mother of one of the suspended girls. "They are there to teach, not to interfere with the rights of parents."
The father of the same girl, said she is so emotionally upset by the suspension she will have to see a doctor and it is doubtful if she will be able to resume school Monday.
Said the father: "I tried to get my girl re-admitted, but the authorities refused, without giving me a good reason. All Mr. Bennett told me was that he could tell the color of the girl's pants when they came to school in the morning. And I took exception to that."
Another father objected to the victimization of the three girls.
"I asked a member of the faculty if they were trouble makers, and she assured me they were not. The reason they were picked, I was told, was that they were popular girls, and this would be the quickest way to let the rest of the school know that short skirts would not be allowed.
"If they're going to take such action with these three, they should have taken it throughout the whole school."
On the other hand, a mother of the third suspended girl backed the teachers 100 percent, saying that when her girl left home that morning her skirt was below her knees. Before arrival at school, however, it was rolled up to reveal an extra amount of leg.
"My girl asked for all she got," said the mother.
But not all parents fee that way. The phone of Kennewick PTA president Mrs. Keith Jacka has been hot since the crackdown.
"I would like a meeting of perhaps two representatives of the parents, teachers and students to discuss the problem," said Mrs. Jacka. "But I personally feel that the length of a girl's skirt is a matter for the parent to decide.
"What I would like to see is the student body draw up a code of ethics for itself."
Evidently all three suspended girls had been warned prior to Wednesday about their short skirts. Then Wednesday the three were taken during the lunch hour by the girls' counselor -- before the principal, and suspended.
The same afternoon two senior girls were told to go home and change from their knee-revealing attire.
School authorities then turned their attention on the boys. The reply of 20 youths to the belt-or-suspender rule was to turn up Friday morning in eccentric suspenders. The "riot" died fast as authorities gave the "off-or-else" choice."
Similar trouble was experienced at Highlands Junior High about a month ago. Evidently the girls were wearing skirts shorter even than the most daring at the high school.
Warnings were enough to kill the fad. There they soon decided how much leg was enough.
But at the high school the resistance seems stronger. Parents are taking sides, and while the fight actively involves only a minority, all are looking on to see who wins.
Will it be discipline...or Dior?