A jogging pants ban at a school in North Rhine-Westphalia is making waves. According to media reports, the management of the secondary school in Wermelskirchen has started to implement the school’s dress code, which has been in force for a long time, and sent students home in jogging pants. According to the reports, this causes anger among the students and their parents.

The school said on Wednesday that it wanted to maintain the dress code “despite criticism in the media”. “We want to encourage our students to wear clothes that don’t tempt them to chill.” The school also said that it was important to move away from jogging pants in order to prepare for professional life.

Initially, the school referred media inquiries to the district government in Cologne. There it was said that “only a few students were asked to change their clothes”. A spokesman for the authorities also referred in general to the NRW school law, according to which the school conference can agree on a dress code if the student representatives support this. This happened in 2019. The majority of the 2019 conference decision is still supported by the school community and is therefore part of the school rules.

State student representatives criticized the procedure

The dress code, which does not allow jogging or sweatpants to be worn, can be found on the school website. There is also a letter to the parents, dated last week, in which the school announces that students who break the dress code will be sent home.

The state student representative criticized the reported procedure. “Immediate exclusion from classes is definitely not the right way,” said board member Julius Lachmann when asked. The school law only mentions a recommendation.

“You have to ask yourself whether jogging pants really endanger the school peace and justify an exclusion,” said Lachmann. It is also questionable that the dress code has not been implemented for four years. Therefore, the current student body should have been asked beforehand whether there was any consent at all.

The NRW school ministry said the ministry would welcome it if the local school communities agreed on uniform school uniforms. The school law provides a good framework for this. However, the external appearance of a student is fundamentally a personal matter, which is protected by the Basic Law. A forced introduction that applies to all students is not possible. A ministry spokesman did not want to classify the behavior of the school management as illegal: “It depends on the specific individual case.”

“Proportionality of the measure doubtful”

“The proportionality of this measure is rather doubtful and legally questionable,” said Beate Schulte zu Sodingen, a lawyer specializing in school law, of the German Press Agency. According to the NRW school law, the school conference can expressly only make a recommendation. Affected parents can now first lodge a complaint with the school inspectorate.

The Education and Training Association had already announced in 2016 that schools could not really ban the baggy look. “The basic right to free development of personality” also applies to students. In 2019, a secondary school in Bad Oeynhausen also banned jogging pants by school conference decision. There, each student had three free warnings. Only the fourth time should the students be sent home to change.