Yet fashionable, the famous tap-socks are often prohibited in schools (©Martin Leduc /

With the start of the school year, the return of clothing controversies. Two years after the one on the crop-top, this T-shirt revealing the navel, it’s the turn of socks to be in the sights.

A college in Seine-Saint-Denis has decided to ban them to ensure the safety of students, especially in chemistry lessons. A decision that was not to the liking of the main stakeholders.

A “fuzzy” principle

What are the rules governing this kind of practice? Contacted by news.frthe Ministry of National Education indicates that it establishes only the general principles in this area.

Circular, transmitted to the rectors of academies in 2011stipulates the obligation of “suitable clothing” and the prohibition “of clothing likely to jeopardize the safety of persons or the rules of hygiene, or even to cause malfunctions in the establishment”.

How are these measures applied within schools? “The principle is vague and that suits us very well”, points out Florence Delannoy, principal of the Montebello high school in Lille, and former secretary general of the National Union of National Education management staff.

At the discretion of management

In other words, this rule is entirely at the discretion of the establishment’s management. And can be translated in any form in the rules of procedure, which, it should be remembered, is drawn up in consultation with representatives of staff, students and parents of students.

“The type of public, age, location, the evolution of customs and fashion, whether the establishment is located in a rural or urban area, whether it is general, technological or professional, are all parameters to be take into account”, points out the headmaster of Lille, who ensures that each college and high school has its own physiognomy and its own codes.

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“Open the dialogue”

However, the interpretation of the rules of procedure can lead to complex situations. On several occasions, throughout the country, supervisors or teachers have asked students to change, either because of a skirt that is too short, a neckline that is too plunging, or underwear that sticks out. Decisions justified by “unsuitable”, “too light”, even “indecent” outfits, and which resulted in changes to the rules of procedure or emails sent to parents.

Florence Delannoy recognizes “a risk of gearing”.

When an extravagant garment becomes a fashion, it can come to be banned. But it is important to open the dialogue, and explain why certain things are not allowed: decency, security, etc. However, we avoid stigmatizing the student. It is said that her outfit is not suitable and in 99% of cases it stops there.

Florence Delannoy Principal of the Montebello high school in Lille

Prohibited religious signs

Often, therefore, there is no need to include in the regulations the clothing that is prohibited. The students themselves proscribe them.

And these rules apply to everyone, both students and educational staff. The principal of Lille recalls having asked a teacher who came in shorts and flip-flops to change.

However, a rule remains immutable for all educational establishments, that of the prohibition of the “wearing of clothing or signs manifesting a religious affiliation”, unless they are discreet.

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Slides-socks, crop-top… can colleges and high schools ban clothing?