Girls in Alexandria schools have gotten out of their one-piece gym suits this year as the result of a sex discrimination complaint filed last school year by two high school girls.
Girls now wear the same two-piece uniform that boys wear. And girls in Fairfax and Prince George's countries, the two remaining metropolitan area jurisdictions that require different uniforms for boys and girls, may soon do the same as school officials there are studying unisex gym suits.
"I feel like (unizex gym suits) might help eliminate the distinction between the sexes in physical education classes," said Freda Martin, the supervisitor of physical education in Prince George's County. She has been collecting samples of unisex gym suits.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, gym classes in secondary schools are coeducational, except for contact sports, such as football and boxing.
Title IX was what led Annabel Maryshall and Gayla Penn to file the first formal student sex discrimination complaint last year in Alexandria schools, over the one-piece gym suits.The suit resulted in the adoption of the new two-piece, dark blue and white uniform of a T-shirt and shorts.
"They look nice," Penn said. "The best part is they look alike."
"I like it better than the one-piece suit we had to wear last year," said Sandy Timmons, an eighth grader at Parker-Gray Middle School. "It's easier to get into it." She added that most girls complained that the one-piece suit, which the girls had to step into, was hard to get on and off.
Penn and Marshall, 11th-graders at T. C. Williams High School, charged in their sex discrimination complaint that they were discriminated against because their one-piece suits cost more than the boys' two-peice suits and because the suits were styled differently.
The girls' one-piece uniforms, which cost $6.50 and were made of a stretchy fabric, were uncomfortable and eventually stretched out of shape, said Penn and Marshall, who are not required to take gym in the 11th grade.
They said the boys' two-piece uniforms, which cost $4.25 and consisted of a T-shirt and shorts, were easier to get on and off and seemed more comfortable and more attractive than the girls'.
After apparently being convinced by the two girls of their case during a formal hearing, city school officials sought further comment from students, parents and teachers. As a result of those responses, school officials decided on the two-piece, $6 outfit for both boys and girls.
"It was well received," said William P. Blair, director of physical education for Alexandria schools. "Everyone seems really happy will them. We feel it makes the physical education classes look better with everyone wearing the same uniform."
Marsha Daniel, the Title IX coordinator for Alexandria schools, said she generally has received good responses from students about the new uniforms. She said, however, that some students have complained about the texture of the shorts, which are made of stretch nylon. "Some would prefer that they were cotton," she said. "You can't please everyone."