The kilt was to be three inches above the knee. No more. No less. That was the rule and every girl at Heaven’s Christian Secondary School knew that if they broke it, it meant trouble. It applied to high school girls only; but rumours of this strict high school rule had wandered down to the elementary grades, so Sarah Beemer had known about it for some time now. It was intimidating to say the least; something so minuscule gaining so much attention. No one really knew why this rule was the one that all the teachers cared about, but sometimes the length of the kilt seemed more important than actually showing up for class.
While no one had ever pushed back too far, there was an overwhelming and universal understanding that this rule was serious. Modesty seemed to be the school’s primary concern. This wasn’t the only rule of this nature that was enforced at the school; others included only wearing navy blue socks or “skin coloured” tights, as well as having your phone off and in your locker before the first bell rang or else it was taken away for the rest of the semester.
Heaven’s had an elementary school just down the road, so most of the students had gone to school with the same people their entire life. This kilt rule, as well as the other strict uniform rules had been drilled into her before she could even read properly. It was always “tuck in your shirt” or “pull up your socks” or “straighten your hair” before it was “good job on that assignment” or “that was very kind of you.” The girls were always held to higher standards than the boys because, as it states in Heaven’s student handbook, “females are to help their brothers in Christ by wearing appropriate clothing that does not tempt the eye to look in lust.” From the outside, it seems like the board at Heaven’s was trying to nurture the students in a way that was oppressive and dictatorial. But, again, the students were used to it. They had grown up in it.
Sarah hated school. Not only did she think it was useless, but the rules just added another level of frustration to the already excruciating school community she was forced to be a part of. Sarah had approximately one friend: Nicole Miller. Nicole didn’t particularly enjoy school, but she didn’t hate it either. While Nicole obeyed the rules as if they were societal laws, Sarah liked to play around with them a bit. Nicole would be fifteen minutes early to every class and would take intense notes in order to do well. Sarah was late almost every day and once shot gunned a beer before her 9am physics exam. Nicole would measure the length of her kilt every morning to make sure it was exactly three inches above the top of her kneecap. Sarah, on the other hand would wear dark brown tights and argue that it was also a skin colour. She didn’t care what people thought of her or about the rules that Heaven’s religiously enforced. She was there to make a point. Sarah was also one of the few girls that dared to wear their kilts a bit shorter than the three inch rule. Most of the time, Sarah would roll her kilt after getting inspected each morning so that it rested at her mid thigh, calling the attention of the many boys that she was friends with.
“It’s so much more comfortable,” she’d argue when Nicole would tell her to pull it down as teachers walked by, “if boys want to look, let them look. I’m not going to stop them.”
“But what about the rules? You’re going to get in trouble!”
“What’s the worst they could do? Tell me to pull it down? I’m just protesting these dumb rules and exercising my right to free speech!”
Every morning at exactly 8:45am the girls at Heaven’s would be pulled out of class and told to stand in a line. Slowly, a board member would walk past each one, inspecting and examining the length of the kilts and the overall look of the uniform. The boys were never inspected; it was only the girls. They were the sex-crazed animals that needed to be contained at all times, apparently. The inspection was the same every day. Out in the hall. Inspection. Dismissal.
Until one day.
Nicole and Sarah stood beside each other, leaning casually against the lockers. Sarah had just been telling Nicole about the barn party she was at that past weekend and detailing the crazy events that took place.
The board member was inching slowly towards them, holding a worn out wooden ruler in her menacing hands. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought that the ruler was used for smacking the rebellious Neanderthals that dare wear socks that were purple or pink. The ruler had never actually been used before; but there was always a sense that it could happen at any time.
As the board member approached the girls, Sarah stood up straighter. Her posture moved from one that was slouched and careless to one that was soldier-like. She put her shoulders back and stared right at the board member.
Sarah popped the gum in her mouth, purposely trying to make the most obnoxious noise as she chewed. She looked Nancy up and down and rolled her eyes slightly, silently judging the outfit Nancy had chosen to wear that day.
There was always some sort of back and forth between Nancy and Sarah; but it seemed like Sarah was in a particularly feisty mood this particular morning. The faculty, especially Nancy, appeared to have it out for Sarah it felt like. They picked on her as often as she tested them.
“Your kilt is too short,” Nancy stated, ignoring the gum smacking coming from Sarah’s mouth.
Sarah didn’t even glance at her knees; she continued to make direct eye contact with the dictator and began to chew her gum even louder.
“Oops,” was all Sarah said. It was a loaded word, telling Nancy so much more than just that she knew her kilt was too short.
Nancy jolted back, surprised by the response that was dripping with attitude. She folded her arms over her chest and smiled. And with that smile, Sarah knew that this time, she had pushed back too far. She tried to hide her unease by standing up straighter and blowing a bubble with her gum.
“Well, I guess we’re just going to have to see for ourselves.” Nancy then held up the ruler and popped the giant bubble that Sarah had blown. Sarah flinched ever so slightly at the ruler; but, with that flinch, Nancy’s smirk grew bigger and Sarah’s confidence shrunk smaller.
Sarah looked over at Nicole who had become quite pale. This was something new. And the grimace on Nancy’s face proved that it was about to get a bit more interesting.
“On your knees, right now.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and leaned further into the lockers, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Very funny, Nancy.” Sarah chuckled slightly and glanced at the students around her, trying to prove that she wasn’t phased by Nancy’s supposedly empty threat.
“Oh, honey, you’re going to wish I was kidding. Get on your naked knees now, or you’ll be suspended.” There was a kind of power in her voice that Sarah had never heard before, even when she had rebelled in other seemingly worse ways.
Sarah looked over at Nicole, a bit less confident in her stance, wondering if Nancy was being serious. Nicole nodded her head and gave Sarah the confirmation that Nancy did in fact mean what she said.
By now, the boys had begun to peer their heads out into the hallway, hoping to catch a glimpse of the drama that was unfolding outside of the classroom. Sarah normally would have loved the attention – especially from the boys – but today she wanted nothing more than for everyone to disappear.
Usually when Sarah, or another girl, was told that their kilt was too short, she would pull it down so that it reached the appropriate length. If this warning happened more than once a week, that student would get a detention. This was the first time a student had ever refused to set their kilt according to the three inch rule after Nancy pointed it out; so no one, not even Sarah, knew what to expect.
Sarah chewed on her nails, picking at the skin. She slowly fell to her knees and watched as the other students giggled or looked at her sympathetically. As she fell, her dignity fell with her.
Her knees rested on the cold tile. Sarah’s posture was now slightly slouched, her confidence shattered. She held a straight face and looked directly in front of her, trying her best to ignore the whispers that were being shared around her.
Nancy bent down slightly and got face to face with Sarah. Without breaking eye contact, she held the ruler against Sarah’s leg. The kilt measured four inches above the knee. One inch higher than the policy. That one inch made Sarah into a slut. A roaring lion that had to be caged. Nancy stood back up straight. Sarah remained on her knees.
“Attention everyone. Let Sarah be an example for those that think this kilt rule is something to be played with.”
Nancy pulled Sarah up to her feet by tugging on her shirt. Sarah stared at the floor, not being able to face her fellow classmates that had just witnessed her embarrassment and humiliation. She bit on her lip, using any inner strength she had left to stop herself from crying and letting Nancy win.
Sarah fixed her uniform, trying to win back some of her pride, and walked back into class. Everyone followed in after her and went back to their seats. Nicole sat down beside Sarah, but did not say a word to her. She wasn’t the same after that; there were no jokes or flirting with the boys for the rest of the day. She went to class and then went home without a word.
The following morning, Sarah wasn’t there for morning inspection. Nicole had figured that Sarah would not be at school that day, understanding the humiliation that must have come after the previous day’s events.
But the morning inspection was different that day. As every girl made their way out of the classroom and into the hallway, they were told to get on their knees. Nancy and two other women each had a ruler in their hands and, as soon as all the girls were in the oppressed position, they began to measure the lengths of the kilts. Now each of the girls felt what Sarah felt yesterday – utter humiliation. These inspections were never going to be the same because of Sarah. Even the air at Heaven’s Christian Secondary School had changed.
As Nancy and the other women worked their way closer to the end of the line of girls, there was a bit of commotion coming from down the hall. The women seem completely unphased by the noise and kept about their business as rule-enforcers; no one was going to stop them from making sure that every kilt was exactly three inches above the knee to the millimeter.
But the commotion was moving closer and closer and soon no one could ignore the voices that were yelling down the hallway.
“Sarah Beemer stop right now!” one yelled.
Nancy and the board members glanced up from their work and stood up straight. There was still no indication of what was going on, so Nancy turned to go back to her job. But then everyone saw it. There was Sarah running down the hallway in nothing but her uniform collared shirt and a pair of bright blue underwear with three office administrators trying to catch up behind her. The smile on Sarah’s face could be seen a mile away. She looked like a bird who had just been freed from her cage. As she passed Nicole, she winked at her, and then continued down Heaven’s hallways and out the door that lead to salvation in the open field.