ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Though the St. Johns County School Board scrubbed the district’s dress code of gendered language last year, the enforcement of the code still almost exclusively affects girls, according to records obtained by News4JAX.
Of the 245 dress code violations recorded in the St. Johns County School District since Aug. 10, 92.2% of those violations went to female students.
Records show that 96% of the violations were recorded at one of four schools: Bartram Trail High School, Creekside High School, Nease High School, and Switzerland Point Middle.
Lori Osachy is the clinical director of River Shores Counseling, which focuses on body image issues, eating disorders and many other mental health challenges. She said, based on the data, these four campuses present a different environment for female students.
“We live in a society that really sees women and girls a lot of the time as objects, and in all kinds of areas,” Osachy said. “So, I think we’re trained to look at women that way and it may be happening subconsciously. It has the potential to hurt young girls because it solidifies that belief that they are objectified.”
In St. Johns County schools, the student dress code is spelled out in the code of conduct and is the same for all schools in the district. However, the dress code says, “the principals or designees will determine the appropriateness of attire in conjunction with the current dress code policy.” In other words, it’s still up to the school’s administration and its principal to decide what’s “appropriate” and what’s not.
The policy states that principals should use their own discretion when “a student’s attire threatens to disrupt the educational process or the good order and discipline of the school or is otherwise inappropriate.” It also includes a requirement that enforcement prioritizes “positive guidance” without embarrassing the student and shouldn’t ever disrupt education.
School board member Bev Slough, who is running for reelection, said there’s always room for improvement to the policy — and that the board is monitoring the violations and will adjust the policy if it’s deemed necessary.
News4JAX reached out to the four other board members as well — but didn’t get a response by publication.