Today’s Daily Mail caries a story bizarre even by that publication’s usual standards. So bizarre that I was not prepared to believe it until I had obtained verification from another source. But it is true. A secondary school in Glasgow has changed its school uniform regulations and in order to frighten parents itno complying has raised the spectre of their child being targetted by paedophiles.
A letter to parents warns that paedophiles are thought to be targetting pupils in certain types of clothes’. The school is therefore stopping pupils wearing those clothes to school and imposing a new uniform of knee-length pleated skirts for the girls and baggy trousers for the boys. The letter explains:
‘We believe an appropriate school uniform protects children from being targeted by sexual predators. There is recent evidence in south Glasgow of adults photographing schoolgirls in short skirts and schoolgirls/boys in tight trousers, then grooming them through the internet.
‘We must do all we can to keep our children safe. A modest school uniform is more appropriate than fashion skirts, trousers or tops.’
The local police say that they have no evidence of any such targeting by paedophiles in the area,
Now I’m one of those parents firmly in the pro-school uniform camp. I think looking smart helps pupils to feel and act smart, as well as reducing unnecessary differences amongst the children. But the tone of this letter is ridiculous. Despite the best efforts of Britney Spears and some men’s magazines, there is no evidence of a link between paedophilia and school uniform and creating such a link is rather unhelpful for everyone concerned. The implication that the victims of paedophiles are in some way to blame for their abuse is both dangerous and outdated and shows worrying similarities to the comments of Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti.
I feel very strongly about keeping children and young people safe. As the mother of a 14 year old daughter I am only too aware of the potential dangers lurking in the outside world, but I know that I cannot keep her protected by refusing to allow her to grow up. One day she will be free to wear and do what she wants and she needs to learn how to be streetwise, how to deal with unwanted attention and how to minimise the possibility of becoming a victim of crime. She won’t learn that by being forced into some alleged ‘anti-paedo’ outfit in order to attend school.
But is there another reason behind the school’s change of uniform rules? The new uniform is all listed as being available in Marks and Spencer. That’s not the cheapest school outfitter by a long way and although the small print states that similar clothing from other outfitters will be allowed, parents may be unwilling to take the chance. The Wikipaedia entry for the area of Kings Park states that it is ‘an affluent suburb of Glasgow, with median house prices and income well above average’. Maybe the high priced school uniform is a subliminal way of dissuading the ‘riff-raff’ from applying?