San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Skirt Conflict Plagues Ministry

LAST week’s Independence Day, Sept. 15, filled most streets throughout the country with uniformed children and the staccato, snappy sound of marching band drums as schools displayed their patriotism in mandatory school parades. However, this year as in the past, some eyes were not focused on the children, but on the length of the skirts that made up some uniforms, the cause of controversy in recent years.Skirts ending above the knees have been banned for the last two years as part of a reformed dress code implemented after former Public Education Minister Astrid Fischel was offended by a Tex-Mex dance routine in a 2003 Independence Day parade (TT, Aug. 29, 2003). However, in the two years since, some schools have shown a little too much independence – and a little too much leg – in their uniforms, disregarding the new rules and allowing short skirts, resulting in front page media coverage and a mess for the ministry.This year, the ministry took its case to President Abel Pacheco, and the rules – previously detailed in a guidebook – were affirmed in a decree issued jointly by the President and the ministry that set nationwide regulations for appropriate behavior, decent dress, acceptable music and other aspects of school parades on national holidays.IRVIN Mathews, the legal advisor for the ministry, told The Tico Times the decree isn’t focused strictly on miniskirts, nor dress in general, but is an overall attempt to regulate the parades.“We would like to see a return to the parades of yesteryear,” Mathews said. “The celebration of historic events is important for the country.”With that spirit, the decree requires that uniforms be “sober, austere, attending to historic criteria and traditional of the institution.”It also forbids military marches and music that isn’t classic, traditional Costa Rican or Latin American music.Infractions are punishable by measures from verbal admonishments to suspension, according to Vice-Minister of Education Wilfrido Blanco.BUT, just as the news of Costa Rica’s independence was delayed in reaching this country in 1821 as the messenger rode by horseback from Guatemala, perhaps the new decree had not yet reached the ears of all the schools, as skirts continued to bounce above the knees of more than just a few students in last Thursday’s parades.While some parents said they support the ministry’s efforts, a mother in Tres Ríos, east of San José, told The Tico Times she thought that the skirts the girls wore were too long.“They look prettier shorter. These are really long. I don’t like it,” said Malena Quirós, 43, as girls marched by in skirts hemmed just barely above the knees.

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