Calls for school dress code changes spread across First Coast

One of the main concerns from parents is inequality, particularly in the difference in the rules for boys versus those for girls.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some families are again calling for major changes to their school district’s dress code and how the code is enforced.

It comes after the controversy at Bartram Trail High School last month. Multiple girls there said they were taken out of class and asked to change clothes.

One of the main concerns from parents is inequality, particularly in the difference in the rules for boys versus those for girls.

These parents say the dress code rules in some of the districts are not only outdated but that they’re actually doing more harm than good.

Female students at Bartram Trail in St. Johns County blasted the school’s handling of alleged dress code violations. Female students said they were being taken out of class and sent to the dean’s office to change clothes or face suspension.

Now, an online petition calling for changes at the school and the district has garnered more than 4,700 signatures.

But this discussion is not contained to St. Johns County.

Tracy Synan and her daughter Sloan have been calling for changes to Duval County’s school dress code, which she says is unfair to girls.

“Everyone agrees that you have to dress appropriately in the school setting,” Tracy Synan said. “The problem is that you’re erring on the side of making girls cover-up because you’re afraid that they might dress inappropriately if given the opportunity to wear their normal clothes.”

While the majority of dress code rules aren’t aimed at a specific gender they do contain words that Synan says are solely applied to female students.

For instance, Duval County’s student dress code bans anything that is “suggestive,” anything “form-fitting,” and anything that’s deemed “disruptive or distractive.”

“As a parent, I want my kids to learn to dress appropriately to the setting -- not be confined to outdated rules that don’t take into account what female fashion is,” Tracy Synan said.

Sloan Nottmeier said the enforcement of these rules poses the risk of long-term trauma to young women.

“Being told that their skin is a rule-breaker, basically. I think that contributes to how they see themselves and I think so, it really does affect them in the future,” Nottmeier said.

So, who gets more dress code violations? Several weeks ago, News4Jax asked all the school districts in Northeast Florida for the numbers and received data back from four of them.

In St. Johns County, 74% of dress code violations over the last three years have been given to girls. In Clay County over the same time, 70% have gone to girls.

It’s the same for violations in smaller districts like Baker and Union counties, of which 76 and 72%, respectively, were for female students.

It’s also important to note that these dress code policies are far from consistent.

Each district has its own set of rules and most of them allow individual principals to have a certain level of discretion as well. That “discretion” on the part of administrators is also something that Synan and others are demanding be abolished.

News4Jax asked the school districts about the online petition and we will update this story if we get a response.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.