Utah School Punished 8-Year-Old Student Since Her Shirt Violated Religious Scripture

An eight-year-old female student in Ogden, Utah was disciplined by her school for breaking a Mormon rule about girls not being able to show their shoulders.

Staff at Valley Elementary School forced Jada Kelson to wear a jacket since her shirt showed her shoulders. The school claimed she violated the school dress code, which is heavily influenced by Mormon scripture and prohibits women from showing their shoulders.

Screenshot via Appignani Humanist Legal Center

The school, however, has since changed its dress code, now only prohibiting clothes that are “disruptive,” but the former rules are still in place in surrounding school districts.

According to Raw Story, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, offers guidance regarding modesty, including a list of ways that members of the church can sew or alter commercial clothing to ensure that it is compliant with religious rules. It advises women and young girls to buy longer men’s or boy’s short and to buy longer shirts that can be tucked into pants to prevent any skin from being shown when they wear shorter tops.

A lawyer is currently demanding that the school review and revise its dress code policy to be more gender neutral and to refrain from including religious influence, especially since the dress code jeopardizes female students’ equal access to education as it forces them to miss important instructional time in the classroom.

Jada’s older sister, Bailey Kelson, who is now in her second year at the University of Utah, also dealt with a similar situation in 2017 at the school district’s high school, Weber High School, according to the lawyer’s letter to the district superintendent. 

“This happened to me my senior year of high school. I was working with my group in AP Chemistry, and I was told to leave and find a jacket to wear over my knee-length, long-sleeved dress because the sleeves had slits in it. I ended up coming back and not knowing what was going on in my group because of what I had missed. For what it’s worth, my group members were as confused as I was about my outfit meriting a dress code,” the eldest Kelson daughter said. 

She said that the incident made her feel humiliated, adding that “somehow this dress was enough of a distraction for it to be deemed necessary for me to leave in the middle of class.”

This just comes to show that girls continue to be humiliated, stigmatized and unfairly sexualized when it comes to dress code. And it’s only reinforcing harmful messages to female students that they are at fault for experiencing harassment based on their clothing choice.