A school in Glasgow has provoked derision and disbelief after sending a letter to all parents demanding pupils wear baggy clothes in an effort to deter paedophiles. The King’s Park Secondary School sent the following note:
“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.”
Despite local police confirming there have been no incidents of schoolchildren in the area being targeting by predators, the school are concerned about the case of Barry McClusky, who pretended to be a schoolgirl online and successfully contacted 49 girls between 2007 and 2010.
Boys will be forced to wear loose-fitting trousers while girls must wear knee-length pleated skirts in a measure which one parent described as “paranoid in the extreme”. The items must be bought from a pre-approved collection at Marks and Spencer, and failure to comply may mean being banned from going on school trips. Parents have responded with disdain:
“There is no way an ugly uniform is going to deter a predator and determined sex offender.”
“This is just paranoid in the extreme. There are better ways to safeguard children than spreading needless panic.”
"It is laughable to think the uniform can act as some sort of paedophile-repellent.”
Despite the lack of support for the idea, a spokesman for Glasgow City Council claimed there had been extensive consultation on the idea before it was decided upon. Eileen Prior, Chief executive of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said:
“Creating a link between school uniform and paedophilia seems to be a dangerous and unhelpful one for everyone involved. It implies that young people are in some way responsible for the activities of paedophiles, which is an extremely dangerous argument and one which has echoes of the comments sometimes made around rapists and women's dress."
"If there is evidence of activity by a paedophile in the area, then police and parents should be informed and involved. Many parents - and indeed young people themselves - are keen to have a dress code in school which requires everyone in the school community to dress in a way which is appropriate for a working environment.”
There are so many things wrong with this draconian measure it is difficult to know where to start. At the most basic level is it simply absurd to think looser trousers will change the behaviour of predatory adults. This sort of measure is also very dangerous for local communities. It has never been necessary before, so the impression given to parents is that there are suddenly a lot more paedophiles in the area, creating an environment of fear. Finally, from a purely financial point of view, expecting all parents to go out and immediately buy new uniform items in the midst of a financial crisis is unfair.
If the police are concerned about the activity of paedophiles in the area they should deal with it directly, it is not the role of schools to come up with ludicrous ideas to deter predators.