A dozen eight-grade girls from Maryland wore oversized yellow T-shirts to protest their school’s dress code — which they said was intended to shame them.
Students from Frederick County Public Schools took part this week in the protest against stricter rules they say unfairly target girls and then publicly embarrass them when they’re found in violation, reported The Frederick News-Post.
The district bans spaghetti straps and shorts or skirts with less than a 4-inch inseam, and girls are told to “be conscious” of showing their cleavage, and principals are given wide latitude for enforcement.
Peter Daddone, the new principal at Urbana Middle School, requires girls who are “dress-coded,” or found in violation of the rules, to cover up with a baggy yellow T-shirt until a parent or guardian can bring clothing he deems more acceptable.
A spokesman for the school district, who fielded questions for the principal, argued the oversize T-shirts weren’t used as punishment but were instead a way to get the girls back into the classroom while promoting “a safe, nurturing learning environment.”
“It’s not a scarlet letter,” said Michael Doerrer, district spokesman.
But some of the students disagreed, saying the dress code teaches boys that girls are shameful for exposing their shoulders or parts of their chest — and they wore baggy shirts with “I’m more than a distraction” written across the chest.
“They’re telling us it’s our responsibility to not be distracting, when it should be their responsibility,” said eighth-grader Abby Carioti.
Some of the girls intentionally wore clothing that violated the dress code on Monday, and they earned cheers as they walked back into the cafeteria wearing oversized T-shirts.
Most of the rules are addressed toward girls, but school officials say that’s because female fashions are more varied than male fashions.
But the girls said students aren’t bothered by their clothing — only adult employees.
“They’re teaching guys that it is okay for their wrongdoings against females because of our actions,” said Rachel Zuniga, a senior at Linganore High School. “We wore this, so it’s our fault for their misbehavior.”
Zuniga told the newspaper that she had been sexually assaulted while wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and long coat — and she was disturbed that the policy seemed to blame girls for sexual misconduct by boys.
“It wasn’t my clothes. It wasn’t my fault whatsoever,” Zuniga said. “So with the dress code, it’s not our fault if boys misbehave.”