Anna Gragert
September 12, 2015 10:06 am

Over the years (and especially recently), we’ve learned that school dress codes can be very unforgiving. We’ve seen dress codes that target everything from exposed collarbones to leggings, and plenty that are generally biased against female students. But this dress code is making us feel not great in a whole new way — for policing students’ expression of their sexual orientation.

Last week, student Briana Popour wore a shirt that read “Nobody knows I’m a lesbian” to South Carolina’s Chesnee High School. And school officials took notice. They didn’t praise her ownership of her sexuality or fearlessness with which she was willing to share a big part of herself with the world though. Instead, they suspended her.

During the school day, Briana was pulled out of class and sent to the front office. Once she arrived, a male administrator immediately told her that she would need to change her shirt or she’d be sent home. “I’ve worn this shirt before and nobody’s ever said anything,” mentioned Popour, who was confused about the sudden problem with her apparel.

She then told the administrator that the school handbook says nothing about sexual orientation being an issue when it comes to the dress code. “When I said something to him about the handbook, he said, ‘Well, not everything is in the handbook,’” Popour told WSPA. The end result: Briana was suspended.

If you’re wondering why Briana wore the shirt in the first place, it wasn’t to cause a controversy. She’s an openly gay high school senior who wants to reach out to other gay students.

When the WSPA news agency contacted the high school and asked them to comment, they didn’t immediately reply. But later, they did send them an e-mail stating that the teen’s shirt was “offensive and distracting.” The school included a link to the dress code, which reads, “Clothing deemed distracting, revealing, overly suggestive or otherwise disruptive will not be permitted.”

When Briana’s mom, Barbara, went to pick her daughter up from school that day, she asked the administrator these questions: Why is my daughter’s shirt considered offensive? Also, who makes that call? According to Barbara, his response was pretty direct. “He does not like people in his school wearing anything that says anything about lesbians, gays, or bisexuals,” she explained.

Both mother and daughter were not happy with his answer. Barbara adds, “There’s other stuff that supposedly could be against religion, against anything else, but that wasn’t listed in his comment.”

As for Briana, she’s upset because her shirt is a part of her identity. Ultimately, she doesn’t want to be afraid of sharing this part of herself with the world. And she doesn’t want this to affect other gay teens as well.

“Isn’t that what school is supposed to teach you? To be happy with who you are?” Briana asks. “Maybe people will be more comfortable showing who they are because you should be able to wear what you want to wear.”

[Images via Twitter.]

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