Female Students Fought for Their Right to Wear Shorter Shorts — and Won

Hayley FitzPatrick
The Knox County School District in Tennessee recently updated its dress code. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Knox County School District in Tennessee recently updated its dress code. (Photo: Getty Images)

Students in the Knox County School District in Tennessee have come out on top after a long, hard-fought battle to modify a dress code in place since 2009.

The new policy changes the approved hem length of shorts, dresses, and skirts from no shorter than fingertip length to “mid-thigh” length — after complaints surfaced in 2016 that the fingertip length put students’ health at risk.

Hollie Sikes, a student at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., created a petition to modify the dress code in August, which amassed 3,785 supporters. In it she claimed finding options that aligned with the fingertip-length constriction was extremely difficult, leading students to wear pants in very hot weather.

“We cannot ignore the simple truth that clothing stores do not sell a wide variety of shorts for girls that are below fingertip length, if any, so young women are forced to wear long pants and jeans in 90-100 degree weather simply to avoid suspension,” she wrote. “Not only does this present health risks, such as nausea, overheating, and even fainting, but it promotes victim blaming in the (unfortunately, extremely prevalent) case of sexual harassment among students.”

Sikes also pointed out that some female students felt discriminated against by the code.

“Going off of this, are we as a county seriously willing to send a girl home and deprive her of her education simply because her shorts are ‘too short’?” she wrote. “Due to the aforementioned reasoning, you are prioritizing the sexualization of a woman’s body over her right to learn and grow as a human being.”

With the new policy that was approved unanimously by the board on Wednesday, both male and female students will have to abide by the “mid-thigh” length implemented.

Another topic of conversation addressed? Faculty dress. Board members Lynne Fugate and Gloria Deathridge think that faculty attire needs to be dealt with, as a number of parents and students have complained that staff members were not held to any standards, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“I’ve also heard from principals who have said when you confront or ask some of the teachers about the dress, they say there is no dress code, so you don’t have a leg to stand on since nothing in writing,” Deathridge told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Professional dress is what is needed and necessary because we are mentors for our children, and we need to make sure we know how to dress and show them what it looks like.”

We reached out to representatives from the Knox County School District and will update when we hear back.

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