Last week, 31 girls at Bartram Trail High School received dress code violations. Thirty-one. And this all took place in one day. It’s not clear what prompted the school to launch this dress code crackdown, but according to a petition launched by concerned students, it was only girls removed from their classrooms and given violations. The boys were simply given warnings and allowed to stay in class.
One of the girls who was targeted gave an interview to News4Jax, explaining the kind of humiliation she had to endure. She had been wearing a jacket, zipped all the way up, while walking down the hallway. “I was wearing a tight sports bra underneath. That’s it,” the student said. “I was stopped by a male teacher and he told me, ‘You’re very out of dress code.’” A female teacher examined her outfit and said she was fine, but the male teacher allegedly was still not satisfied; the student said he pulled her out of class into the hallway, full of people, and ordered her to unzip her jacket. That the student said she was uncomfortable unzipping her jacket allegedly did not matter; she said staff members continued to pressure her to unzip her jacket and display her near-naked body underneath the jacket, in the middle of a crowded hallway — and was then punished for it.
Riley O’Keefe, the Bartram Trail freshman who started the petition, echoed this experience. “Girls were being told to unzip their jackets to see what was underneath to see if it was appropriate,” she told News4ax. “But the thing is, if it’s zipped up, it should be fine. It’s like our bodies are sexualized and it’s more important than our education.”
Still another student, Alexandria Hess, told News4Jax that a staff member even went so far as to use an offensive slur towards her. “She said, ‘We need to talk about what you’re wearing. You look like a hooker,’” Hess said. “It was embarrassing because she said it in front of a lot of people. They all heard her.”
The dress code crackdown was so egregious that boys at the school began staging demonstrations, wearing wigs and girls’ clothing to make a point. Even though they wore clothing that violates the dress code, like crop tops, none of the boys received dress code violations. One public Facebook post featured one of the boys, wearing a crop top displaying his stomach, and pointed out that he made it through the entire day without a single infraction. “Apparently the high school is going a bit overboard with dress coding the girls of the school with their shirts even when wearing a zip-up hoodie over top,” read the post. “So in solidarity, Mason wore a crop sweatshirt today and made it all day without any infractions….”
Typically, dress code battles elicit an eye-roll from me. Far too often, I see teenage girls whining because they feel they should be able to wear whatever they want to school. And here’s the problem with that: A school does not exist for its students to socialize and put on a fashion show. Not only are students there to get an education, but they are supposed to be getting ready to enter the real world. It doesn’t matter what job you get — very, very few adults are able to prance into a job wearing whatever they feel like. There are rules, that’s the way it is, and teenagers need to get over themselves and accept it. No employer will care about your “creativity” or “self-expression” or whatever you want to call it. It’s a job. Period. And when you’re a student, learning is your job, so yes, you need to go to school worried more about that, and less about fashion.
There is an ongoing problem with dress codes being enforced unfairly. There is a massive difference between putting a common-sense dress code into place, and making girls unzip jackets so you can decide if what they’re wearing underneath personally offends you or not. And far too often, dress codes are being used as a way to police girls’ bodies — just look at Bartram Trail! If crop tops are not allowed, then every single boy who wore one should have been given an infraction, too. The fact that they weren’t speaks volumes.