Dress Codes Are Fine, Policing Girls’ Bodies Is Not

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….”

Photo courtesy of Jen Grabill/Facebook.

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.

Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Cassy Fiano-Chesser is a Jacksonville native and mom to six kids. Her husband is a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient. She works from home as a blogger and a freelance writer, and they currently live in the Argyle area of Jacksonville. Benjamin is their oldest, born in 2011, and he loves being a big brother. Wyatt was born in 2012, and he has Down syndrome. Ivy came next, in 2013, followed by Clara, born in 2015, who is a diva-with-a-capital-D. Rounding out the brood is Felicity, born in 2017, and Lilly, born in 2007. They love discovering things to do on the First Coast and going on family adventures, as well as cheering on the Jumbo Shrimp and the Icemen.


  1. The wording in dress codes need to change to be more equitable. Words like “distracting” in reference to girls and not boys opens up a lot of subjectivity to the resulting “policing of girls’ bodies.” I think dress codes should allow for clothes appropriate to the season so girls aren’t forced to wear pants in 90 degree FL weather all the time. The fact that dress codes make far more subjective rules for girls is exactly why schools use it to police girls’ bodies. I am all for dress codes, too, and I don’t think many want the entire dress code abandoned; but I think it’s a fair request for the dress code to be written and applied equally to all students.

  2. This article and all the others on this particular incident should do their due diligence! What facts do you have that says no boys got dress codes or that any of this is true. It’s an unfair representation of what is really going on. These girls are over dramatizing what happened and not that I agree that kids were asked to unzip jackets but the fact of the matter is that what actually happens is the girls wear tank crops that are out of dress code and bring a jacket so when they are near admin they put it on and zip it up! All you have to do is check their social media accounts and you will clearly see these girls are out of dress code at school. It’s appalling to me that parents encourage breaking rules instead of respecting authority! Just hold your kid accountable and follow the rules!


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