Parents demand school district change 'unfair' dress code

URBANA, MD - OCTOBER 30: Urbana Middle School girls wearing homemade T-shirts with "I am more than a distraction" clockwise from top Sophie Beers-Arthur, Sola Beers-Arthur, Allison Crittenden, Summer Campbell, Sophia Plaschke, Emma Sweeney, and Abby Carioti October 30, 2016 in Urbana, MD.  The  Frederick County middle school girls protested and spurred change and now are helping to rewrite the dress code at Urbana Middle School that they say unfairly discriminates against girls.               (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Middle School girls wearing homemade T-shirts with the message, "I am more than a distraction." (Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As school districts across the nation are updating their dress code policies to be more inclusive and gender-neutral, community members of Fort Mill, South Carolina are demanding change in their own district. A petition, started two weeks ago by parents in the district, claims the current dress code is "unrealistic, arbitrarily enforced, and unfair," particularly against female students, and has so far garnered over 5,000 signatures.

The petition asks that the Fort Mill school district “create a fair and realistic dress code for students in Fort Mill public schools.” In particular, it raises concerns regarding the unfair bias against female students, as they are often targeted for skirt and short length as well as tank top strap width.

"Calling girls out for dress code violations has a negative impact on class time, self esteem and relationship building with teachers and administrators," the petition reads, adding that finding dress code appropriate clothing for female students is "difficult or impossible."

The dress code, the petition continues, doesn't just negatively affect the girls.

"[We] feel that the district is sending the wrong message to our sons who should be taught to respect and support their female peers," the petition read. "Our sons should not be sent the message that the adults around them feel they are incapable of treating all females with respect, that they are unable to control themselves nor that a female’s attire is a license for distraction or to act inappropriately."

A representative of the Fort Mill school district informed Yahoo Lifestyle that the district's dress code is "gender neutral and does not have separate requirements for males and females." According to a provided statement, the district's policy, which was modified in 2017, is "in line with the majority of non-uniform dress code policies across our state."

A statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle from Fort Mill school district leaders reads, in part: "The district is aware of some concerns about the dress code policy circulating on social media and we are currently reviewing our policy and its implementation to ensure the policy is being applied consistently across all grade levels… We welcome all feedback from our community and will continue to make adjustments as warranted."

The petition asks that the school board and district include parents and students, through a parent advisory board and student task force, in the conversation to revise the current dress code.

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