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November 19 2018

Banning Pricey Jackets Doesn’t Stop Poverty Shaming, But Pushes a Victim Mentality

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

A British high school will no longer allow students to wear expensive winter coats to school in an effort to end the “pressure” on poor kids and families to measure up.

This ban won’t end bullying - if it’s happening - and it misses an important teaching moment about life that children should learn.

Parents of students at Woodchurch High School in Merseyside were notified that students wouldn’t be allowed to sport coats by designers like Moncler, Pyrenex and Canada Goose. These coats can go for $900 US or more.

School officials claim they are trying to “poverty-proof” their school environment and that they have the support of parents and students. The headteacher Rebekah Phillips explained:

"The pupils spoke to us about the pressure on families and the pressure on themselves to wear particular branded coats. A few years ago we introduced a school bag for the same reason.

Elsewhere she added:

“We are very concerned about the fact that our children put a lot of pressure on parents to buy them expensive coats.

“They feel stigmatised, they feel left out, they feel inadequate.”

It’s unclear from comments by administrators whether this policy is to insulate the reported 46 percent of students coming from a disadvantaged background from feeling bad or to stop actually bullying taking place.

Creating an environment that removes the distractions to learning - such as banning crop tops, mini-skirts, leggings - is nothing new and understandable. 

Parents no doubt also feel the relief of not having to shell out hundreds of dollars for a coat to help their kids fit in.

Feeling left out or inadequate because of what you can afford to wear is certainly unfortunate, but is that enough of a justification to implement a ban on designer label coats for everyone? I don't think so.

As a kid whose family came to the U.S. with a few suitcases of clothes and lived in a poor neighborhood for years, my hard-working parents earned just enough from their modest jobs to keep us clothed, fed, and sheltered. (Somehow, they scraped together savings to buy a house in a better neighborhood.)

I can remember looking at classmates sporting their Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Canadia Goose coats with wonder (perhaps a bit of envy). That my peers wore those clothes didn’t hinder my academic performance though as I often was the only one of my homeroom to earn all A's in classes like Latin. Nor did it make me any less worthy to attend the college-preparatory school. I was not a victim of my poor background.

In fact, it propelled me to become resourceful and secure what I wanted. I saved whatever birthday or Christmas money I received and got a summer job to purchase what I wanted to wear.

One lesson in life is that although not everyone is born into the same circumstances, those circumstances do not have to stunt your future or limit how far you go in life.

There will always be someone with a better house, car, career, or wardrobe, and schools do not prepare their students for how to thrive in a world of differences by trying to make everyone the same.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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