ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – There’s controversy over the student dress code at a St. Johns County high school.
Students at Bartram Trail High said teen girls are being taken out of class and sent to the dean’s office to change clothes or face suspension. That’s the focus of an online petition created by students calling for change, which had more than 3,000 signatures as of Monday evening.
One student said she was taken out of class and asked by school staff to unzip her jacket in front of other staff and students. She said it’s happening to other female students. The school district confirmed that 31 girls received dress code violations on Friday.
The student, who did not wish to be named, said she was walking in a hallway at the school with her jacket fully zipped when she was asked to unzip the garment.
“I was wearing a tight sports bra underneath. That’s it,” the student said. “I was stopped by a male teacher and he told me, ‘You’re very out of dress code.’”
The student said she asked and was then sent to a female teacher who approved of her attire and sent her back to class.
The student said that minutes later, the male teacher pulled her from class and told her to unzip her jacket in front of people in the main hallway. The student said she would rather not, but said staff members kept asking her to unzip the jacket. She said when she did, she was told what she was wearing was incredibly inappropriate.
“I was walked downstairs got it taken which was my bra and was told I have detention,” the student told News4Jax.
Freshman Riley O’Keefe, who started the online petition, said many of the girls flagged over dress code violations on Friday were wearing zip-up jackets with tank tops underneath.
“Girls were being told to unzip their jackets to see what was underneath to see if it was appropriate. But the thing is, if its zipped up, it should be fine,” she said. “It’s like our bodies are sexualized and it’s more important than our education.”
Another student, senior Alexandria Hess, said she was called out in front of a group of students by a school administrator about a dress she was wearing that was 4 inches above her knees.
“She said, ‘We need to talk about what you’re wearing. You look like a hooker,’” said Hess, who explained she was wearing the dress because she had to dress in business casual clothing that day. “It was embarrassing because she said it in front of a lot of people. They all heard her.”
Now the students are getting support from others.
“All the girls at BTHS are standing up for themselves, and today we were all wearing zip-up jackets and tank tops and see what they would do about it, and they dress-coded me today,” the unnamed student told News4Jax. “I feel like I am being profiled.”
Several students, including boys wearing wigs and clothing typically worn by girls, staged a demonstration Monday to call attention to the dress code that they say is a sexualization of young women and their clothing.
“Some guys were wearing crop tops and tied up their shirts and didn’t get dress coded, which is crazy,” O’Keefe said. “I want administrators to know this is not OK.”
As of 2 p.m. on Monday, seven girls and five boys were cited for dress code violations.
The St. Johns County School District’s dress code states the “dress and grooming of students shall promote a positive educational environment and not disrupt the educational activities and processes of the school.” It says all students’ clothing that is “immodest, revealing or distracting in character is unacceptable.”
The school district sent News4Jax a statement:
O’Keefe said she believes the dress code should be changed to allow girls more choices on what they can wear.
“It’s outdated and needs to be changed,” she said.