Pass the Skirt – Discrimination within High School Dress Codes

This past January, Arkansas high schooler, Laura Orsi, started the Pass the Skirt movement. Her friend, Clara Mitchell, was scheduled to speak at the school’s science symposium. Unfortunately, Mitchell was dress coded for the plaid skirt she chose to wear. The school prompted Mitchell to call her parents to bring a change of clothes, despite Mitchell living 30 minutes away and both of her parents working full-time jobs. Mitchell’s dad was able to get to the school with a change of clothes in time for her to speak at the symposium.

Above is Laura Orsi (Left) and Clara Mitchell (Right).

The next day, Orsi decided to wear the same skirt Mitchell was dress coded for. Despite taking purposeful trips to the main office and speaking to the same administrator that dress coded Mitchell, Orsi was able to get through the day without being dress coded.

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Yesterday, Clara Mitchell wore the same skirt I have on in this photo. She had worn it to school before, and was sporting it again for the Science Symposium. However, at 10am, she was dress coded for it being “too short” by Parkview administration who repeatedly made her turn around to “look at the back,” and easily caused her a panic attack, which they then accused her of faking. When I came to the front office after getting the text of what was wrong, I was told to leave because “she knew what she was doing,” implying she was putting on an act for pity or attention. I ignored the comment, but then administration threatened to dress code me to get me to leave—but they didn’t. Clara was also threatened with suspension since this was “her third offense over the course of 2 years.” Clara is 3rd in class, making her way up to Salutatorian, and a suspension would have sacrificed her record, her straight A’s, and even her chance at receiving merit based scholarships for college, which she needs in order to go. The official LRSD dress code states: “Students are not to wear suggestive or revealing clothing that diverts attention from the learning process.” Since inappropriate language and imagery on clothing is already addressed in the handbook, it’s clear that this is directed towards girls. Furthermore, when a girl is sent home over this sexist rule, it tells her that the length of her shirt or skirt, the way her top is cut at the shoulders, or how deep their neckline may be is more important than her education. Not only that, but it also allows adults in power to look at young girls and decide if they think she’s being “suggestive,” meaning they feel personally about their clothing. When girls are dress coded for this rule, it feels objectifying and violating, much like it did to Clara when she was repeatedly asked to turn around so her backside could be viewed in the skirt by a room of judging adults. At Parkview, I’ve noticed that administration also tends to target minority girls over white girls when it comes to dress code violations. I decided to wear the same skirt as Clara the very next day and go out of my way to be seen by *cont. in comments*

A post shared by ⭐️ laura orsi ⭐️ (@lauraaorsi) on

 

"I wore the same skirt the next day originally to prove that minority girls are treated differently than white girls. I still stand by that. We live in a society that breeds deep, subtle, often unrealized racism, and I think that’s why she was coded. As this has grown, I’ve realized it’s a lot more about body type, though," Orsi said.

After this experience, Orsi decided to start the Pass the Skirt Movement.

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Welcome to #PassTheSkirt! I’m excited to get this movement started to support all of those who have felt discriminated against in any way due to dress code. For all of those rockin’ and ready to participate, our first act of protest will be tomorrow. We will wear skirts/shorts/dresses that rise over 4” above the knee. Document your outfit on social media using #PassTheSkirt, and let us know whether or not you were coded for what you were wearing and why. To keep the movement going, there will be days to “pass your skirt,” meaning you let another student borrow what you wore to see if they have a different experience wearing it. This is part of an experiment to see if LRSD unfairly dress codes girls and minority students. Please share your posts and experiences with this page. DMs are open, our handle is @passtheskirt, our hashtag is #PassTheSkirt, and our business email is [email protected], linked in bio. You can also join the remind by texting @passthesk to 81010. Updates will be sent out about what days will be pass the skirt days (though you can participate any day you wish), where the movement is going, and the you can also send messages to the remind to share your experience or discuss the movement with me. I’m excited to see the response! #PassTheSkirt

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After hearing about this movement, I decided to reach out to some Boston high school students. I interviewed two female students about their opinions and experiences with their respective dress codes.

Nikki Marchando is a senior at Boston Latin School. She is very into fashion and makeup, often posting her looks on her Instagram. The dress code at her high school often conflicts with this love of fashion.

According to the Boston Latin School handbook, students are not allowed to wear gang-related clothing or colors, clothing with displays of profanity or drugs/alcohol, sleeves with a width of fewer than three fingers, shorts/skirts/dresses more than four inches above the knee, or leggings.

When asked about her opinions of the dress code, Marchando said that she believed the dress code itself is lenient. The only aspect she would change would be the way in which it’s enforced.

Marchando noted that the dress code isn’t enforced equally among students. There are cases of teachers only enforcing the dress code with some students but not with others. Marchando stated that it would be better for teachers to enforce the dress code in a standardized way.

I also interviewed, Fatima Eddahbi who is a junior at Excel Academy. Similar to Marchando, Eddahbi is very into fashion. The dress code at her high school is far stricter, inhibiting her ability to express this passion.

Unlike Boston Latin School, Excel Academy has its students wear uniforms. The students are required to purchase the uniforms from the school and can’t wear other articles of clothing, including sweatshirts and gym uniforms. Eddahbi noted that the uniforms are uncomfortable and not good quality, especially for the high price.

On the days that students are allowed to dress down, the dress code is a little different. Students are allowed to wear non-uniform clothing but are required to pay $2-4. In addition to the price, there are restrictions on what you can and can’t wear, including no crop tops, no rip jeans, nothing above the knee, and no spaghetti straps.

Eddahbi believes that her dress is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. She often has to go out of her way to find and buy clothing that suits her school’s uniform. Eddahbi doesn’t mind the uniform itself but would prefer if it was a bit more lenient so that students would have an easier time buying the articles of clothing – sneakers, socks, belts, etc. – that the school doesn’t sell.

When asked about the purpose of the dress code, Marchando, like many others, believed the purpose was to help boys stay focused. But according to the Boston Latin School handbook, “Students should dress appropriately for the business of education.”

The purpose of high school dress codes is to foster a professional environment, which is what Eddahbi stated as what she believed the purpose of her high school’s dress code is.

Both girls didn’t believe that the state of their respective dress codes really proved its purpose. Eddahbi stated that wearing a school uniform doesn’t correlate to the capability of wearing professional attire, especially when small details of a student’s uniform – like a belt or socks – are often what’s focused on. Marchando believed the inequitable way her dress code is enforced directly contrasts its mission to promote professionalism.

Another thing the two girls agreed on was that while they don’t believe the dress code is perfect, it is necessary in some capacity. They both noted that without a dress code some students will dress fairly inappropriately, either showing an egregious amount of skin or wearing displays of profanity.

Both girls also believe that the dress code unfairly targets girls of certain body types. The girls that are dress coded more often are those that have larger boobs, are taller, have bigger butts, etc. Clothing fits their body types in a way that is more likely to break the dress code. It’s unfair to single out these girls and make them feel uncomfortable with their bodies.

School is a place for young people to learn and feel safe. Yet, young girls are having their bodies overly sexualized. They are also being pulled away from classes because of what they are wearing. This is negatively affecting their education which is not okay.

An important take away from all of this, is that the problems with dress codes aren’t always how strict they are, but how they’re enforced. When it’s fairly apparent that certain students are targeted and dress codes are aimed at regulating the way females dress, there’s a problem.

Dress codes need to be enforced in a standardized way. Dress codes also need to stop sexualizing a girl’s body and adapt to the fact that there are many body types that affect the way clothes fit.

 

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