In one Georgia middle school, a group of 50 to 60 students is protesting their administration’s policy by wearing matching outfits every Friday: t-shirts that call the dress code “sexist,” “racist,” and “classist.”
The demonstration was sparked by an incident that occurred on the very first day of classes at Simpson Middle School, the New York Times reports. Sophia Trevino, 13, believed she’d picked out the perfect outfit for the first day of school only to be swiftly disciplined once she arrived. According to the outlet, a teacher in charge of enforcing the dress code lined up students as soon as they entered the school—including Sophia, who was wearing black distressed jeans. The teacher determined that—because the rips in Sophia’s jeans were higher than her fingertips—she’d violated the dress code, and wrote up Sophia and 15 other girls before first period.
In addition to the weekly protests, Sophia has started a petition calling on Simpson to replace their current dress code with one used in a Canadian school district, which allows students to expose their shoulders, abdomen, and cleavage. The board of trustees responsible for the Canadian dress code wrote that they recognize “that decisions about dress reflect individual expression of identity, socio-cultural norms, and economic factors and are personal and important factors to a person’s health and well-being.”
Needless to say, most dress codes in the United States are not designed with this reality in mind. Rather, they’re deployed as mechanisms for turning young girls’ bodies into sites of shame and stigma. Though schools might describe their dress codes as establishing a standard for “appropriate dress for the learning environment”—as Simpson Middle School does—girls can easily see through to the core of what they represent.
“In school, they think that the boys are just drooling over our shoulders and our thighs,” Sophia told the Times. “They aren’t. They don’t care. And even if they do, that’s not our fault. That’s theirs.”
After a sudden flood of media attention, Simpson Middle School appears to have removed the “fingertips” measure from its dress code, but the rest of the policy remains intact, according to the Times.