Ready for the absurd?

Yesterday a Kansas school suspended a 13-year old student for wearing a purse. Happened to be a Vera Bradley bag, but that shouldn’t matter, because it wasn’t the bright colors or quilted paisley design that prompted the disciplinary action. It was the fact that the student is a boy. There is no school rule about wearing purses, and female students who do so are not punished. But widely held, stubborn stereotypes are that females carry purses and men don’t. This boy, Skylar, defied that stereotype, and his school wouldn’t tolerate it.

Not what you want from an institution of learning, is it? The high school dropout crisis in our nation is attributable in part to excessive school disciplinary practices that push kids out of school. It is ridiculous that a kid like Skylar who goes to school and wants to be there is getting kicked out because he doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of what boys and girls should wear.

But it’s not only ridiculous – it’s also illegal. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination based on a student’s failure to conform to sex stereotypes. Actions like these that deny students educational opportunities because of their sex are prohibited by Title IX, and this may also violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and possibly state laws too.

Schools like these send all students a clear message: either get in line with our gender expectations or go home. Instead of enforcing arbitrary, outdated (and illegal) rules about gender stereotypes, how about schools start enforcing these rules?