TAIPEI (CNA) — Members of several parent organizations gathered in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) headquarters Friday to protest against a public high school’s decision to allow male students to wear skirts to school.
The protesters, holding placards reading “Win Family Back, Reverse Education,” expressed strong opposition to a decision by Banqiao Senior High School in New Taipei in late June to relax its dress code for students.
They argued that the existing gender equality education in Taiwan does not touch on the issue of “responsibility,” emphasizing instead students’ “rights.”
“The boundary between men and women is being broken. Where does a skirt-wearing male student go when the call of nature comes?” asked Hung Chih-ho (洪志和) of the Kaohsiung City Parents Alliance.
“Without the boundary, how will boys treat girls with respect?” he asked.
Hung argued that exposing one’s chest and back or other “inappropriate” dress codes are not in the spirit of respect.
“Children like to do something wacky, to be different from others, so that people pay attention to them,” he said, “but now boys are allowed to wear skirts to school, with the school attributing the change to respect for students’ right of autonomy.”
The excuse is in fact aimed at skirting responsibility, according to Hung.
The protesting groups, including the Taiwan Mothers Shield Alliance and the Parents Association, accused the school of misleading children into believing that allowing boys to wear skirts is gender equality.
While the existing gender equality education only touches on the promotion of students’ rights and does not address the responsibility students have to shoulder, the protesters expressed concern that things can go wrong in the future, including that boys will be allowed to use restrooms for girls, the statement said.
The statement suggested that high schools should reinforce judgment training for students before they learn to be self-disciplined.
Banqiao Senior High School confirmed Monday that starting from the new school semester in September, it will allow male students to wear skirts to school, in a move to promote gender equality.
Lin San-wei (林三維), head of the high school’s student affairs division, said the school authorities decided last month to scrap a regulation regarding students’ dress code, which originally stipulated that male students can only wear pants to school.
Scrapping the rule means that male students will be allowed to wear skirts to school should they choose to, without facing punishment, while female students can continue to wear either skirts or pants to school, according to Lin.
Asked about the protest, Huang Ching-yi (黃瀞儀), a deputy division chief at the MOE’s Department of Student Affairs, told the press that Banqiao Senior High School’s decision was made through a democratic procedure that involved discussions among teachers, students, parents and administrative staff at the school.
Under the MOE’s dress code guideline, senior high school authorities are allowed to make changes to dress code and hair policies, as long as they consult students and parent representatives and adhere to democratic procedures.
Huang said the ministry is soliciting public opinion on whether or not the guideline will be introduced to junior high and elementary schools.
By Chen Chih-chung and Elizabeth Hsu