Our Plan in Action: New Uniform Options Embrace All Students' Identities
It was a historic moment in Burke’s storied 109-year history: For the first day of the 2017-18 school year, some students came to campus in pants!
Lower School students have worn the jumper (in “Burke’s plaid”) since the division was founded in the late 1940s, and Upper School students have worn the sailor-like middy and pleated skirt since soon after Burke’s was founded in 1908. Discussion about adding pants to the Burke’s uniform options has taken place for decades, though the move became more urgent in recent years due to Burke’s Strategic Plan. Goal #1 includes a subsection: “Supporting the Girl as She Finds Her Place in a Diverse & Ever-Changing World.” It reads, “Self-exploration is central to the growth of the complete girl, her relationships with others, and her ability to promote equity.” There’s also a popular saying on campus that there are 400 ways to be a Burke’s girl, and in 2017, it felt like it was time to embrace that not all 400 ways would wear a skirt.
“This was a thoughtful, intentional decision driven by our mission to educate, encourage, and empower girls,” says Head of School Michele Williams. “At the same time, we hold dear the tradition that the Burke’s uniform represents to our entire community.”
The work on deciding what the new uniform options would be was undertaken by the Gender Inclusion Subcommittee of the Diversity Task Force, whose entire purpose is to help Burke’s explore how to accommodate the many ways in which our girls express their identity. That thoughtfulness led to green pants for the Lower School and navy pants for Upper School, which continues the separation of uniform color choices, as well as a belt in the traditional Burke’s plaid for Lower School pants. All of the options include sizes for the many different body shapes on campus.
This year, we have seen a number of students embracing these new uniform choices. Some girls are switching back and forth between skirt and pants from one day to the next or wearing pants on rainy days. On the first day of school, there were two sets of twins in which one sister wore pants and one wore a skirt!
“So far, we’re seeing girls who are excited to have choices,” Williams says. “It fits perfectly with educating students for the 21st century — they are bringing their best selves to school.”
While Burke’s plans to maintain the option to wear pants, we will re-examine the specific available choices in the coming months as the first groups of students figure out the practicalities of what works and what doesn’t.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.