‘Sexist,’ ‘Racist,’ ‘Classist’: Georgia 8th Grader Challenges School Dress Code

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After being cited for a rip successful her jeans connected the archetypal time of school, Sophia Trevino has led a protestation seeking changes to the district’s formal code, which she says unfairly targets girls.

Every Friday, Sophia Trevino, 13, expresses her objection to formal  codes by wearing a protestation  T-shirt to school.
Credit...Audra Melton for The New York Times

Isabella Grullón Paz

Sept. 4, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ET

Sophia Trevino cautiously picked her outfit the nighttime earlier her archetypal time of eighth people past month. Two hours earlier bedtime, and with her mother’s help, she went done her closet and selected a achromatic Los Angeles T-shirt, a caller brace of achromatic distressed jeans and Air Force 1 sneakers. Sophia, 13, of people checked with her friends that the outfit was cute; they said it was. Her parents didn’t deliberation doubly astir the clothes.

But a teacher making definite students were successful compliance with the formal codification astatine Simpson Middle School successful Cobb County, Ga., did not find her outfit appropriate. Lined up with different students arsenic they came into the school, Sophia was asked to enactment her hands down by her thighs to measurement if the rip successful her jeans was little than her fingertips. It was not. She and 15 different girls were written up earlier archetypal period.

Every Friday since then, Sophia and different students astatine Simpson Middle School, astir 25 miles northbound of Atlanta, person worn T-shirts that denounce formal codes arsenic “sexist,” “racist” and “classist.” In protesting the rules, immoderate parents and students person utilized Cobb County’s laissez-faire argumentation connected look coverings — it is the lone region successful Georgia that has made masks optional for students, leaving it up to parents if their children deterioration them astatine schoolhouse — arsenic a cudgel. If adhering to a nationalist wellness measurement is optional, they say, wherefore can’t students opt retired of a formal codification they spot arsenic discriminatory?

Eruptions implicit formal codes are successful nary mode unsocial to Sophia’s school; determination person been galore akin conflicts implicit the years, often citing radical oregon intersexual bias baked into the policies. In 2019, Houston parents chafed astatine a principal’s guidance connected how they should formal to prime up their children from school that galore said was inflected with racism and classism. The twelvemonth before, a teenage miss successful Florida was removed from people due to the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra.

According to a 2020 study written successful portion by Todd A. DeMitchell, a prof astatine the University of New Hampshire who has researched the litigation of formal codes successful nationalist schools, the absorption connected covering girls’ bodies contributes to the precise occupation that formal codes question to address: the inappropriate sexualization of pistillate students.

In an investigation of formal codes astatine 25 New Hampshire nationalist schools, the researchers recovered that astir had policies specifically targeting girls, with policies connected covering breasts, cleavage, collarbones and shoulders. The survey notes that immoderate of the garments prohibited successful galore schoolhouse policies, specified arsenic vessel tops and strapless shirts, are “prohibited due to the fact that they are considered ‘sexy.’”

“The occupation with this taxable is the ascribing of ‘provocation’ to pistillate clothing,” the survey reads. “In different words, the formal prime of females is presumed to beryllium designed to pull attraction from males.”

Sabrina Bernadel, a chap astatine the National Women’s Law Center, agrees that formal codes are disproportionately restrictive toward women and girls.

“Dress codes are decidedly sexist,” she said. “They enactment the onus connected girls to not beryllium distracting oregon not telephone attraction to themselves alternatively of putting the onus connected each students to respect everyone’s body.”

Ms. Bernadel said that erstwhile it comes to students being punished for formal codification violations, Black and brownish girls get written up the most, followed by Black boys, past achromatic girls, past achromatic boys. For Black girls, the contented is not needfully astir their clothes, but their bodies, which thin to beryllium perceived astatine aboriginal ages arsenic much developed oregon “adult.”

In the abbreviated term, disciplinary actions resulting from getting “dress coded” tin pb to little acquisition time, hindering world performance. In the agelong term, codification violations tin marque girls, and particularly Black girls, consciousness “ashamed of however they explicit themselves and besides what they look like,” Ms. Bernadel said.

The up-to-you argumentation connected disguise wearing successful Cobb County schools reflects 1 portion of the patchwork of masking policies nationwide. In overmuch of the country, it is up to section officials whether masks are required successful schools, and astir schoolhouse districts that necessitate look coverings acceptable the regularisation for each students careless of property oregon vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that each students, teachers and unit members in schools deterioration masks, careless of vaccination status.

“Cobb County says that parents are champion suited to determine astir whether their kid wears a mask, but that they are not champion suited to determine what the kid wears connected their bodies,” Sophia wrote successful a petition connected Change.org that has implicit 2,000 signatures.

“I don’t deliberation you tin prime and take that reasoning,” Sarah Trevino, Sophia’s parent and a lawyer successful the Atlanta area, said of the county’s stance that parents tin take whether their children deterioration masks. “If you’re going to usage that reasoning whether to enactment a portion of cloth implicit your child’s face, it should beryllium the aforesaid reasoning if you’re going to enactment a portion of cloth implicit their thigh.”

According to the Simpson Middle School formal code, “all shorts, skirts and dresses indispensable beryllium fingertip length” — meaning erstwhile students holds their arms astatine their sides, their longest digit indispensable inactive interaction fabric. The codification besides specifies that “no tegument whitethorn beryllium exposed supra the fingertip.”

Sophia said her main contented with the formal codification was that it singled retired girls and made them liable for boys’ actions.

“In school, they deliberation that the boys are conscionable drooling implicit our shoulders and our thighs,” Sophia said. “They aren’t. They don’t care. And adjacent if they do, that’s not our fault. That’s theirs.”


Credit...Audra Melton for The New York Times

With her petition and the Friday protests, which she says person been joined by 50 to 60 students since they began, Sophia hopes to get the schoolhouse district’s formal codification changed to thing gender-neutral and inclusive. Her solution? A formal codification that is simply “shirts, bottoms, shoes.”

Such a argumentation would let tops that amusement the abdomen, midriff, cervix lines and cleavage and bottoms could exposure legs, thighs and hips. Any outfit would request to screen the groin, buttocks and nipples.

She said that her protestation and her projected formal codification haven’t received “too much” backlash, and that teachers and members of the assemblage look to beryllium supportive of her efforts. Sometimes, though, she has to sprout soiled looks astatine teachers who she thinks are judging her.

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