Here's how one school shames girls who break the dress code — and why it's not okay
If your main problem with Cersei Lannister’s punishment in the season finale of Game of Thrones was that she wasn’t wearing enough clothing, there’s a high school in Virginia that totally agrees with you.
James River High School, in Chesterfield, Va., has come under fire for requiring female students to put on sweatpants that spell out “DRESS CODE” down the leg if they’re found to have broken the — you guessed it — school dress code.
One senior, frustrated with the practice that she says discriminates unfairly against female students, wrote a letter to school administrators protesting against the practice. Seventeen-year-old Lydia Cleveland also visited two local news stations to try to bring more attention to the school’s sexist policy.
“This is telling our bright young women that it is their fault when they are sexualized in the eyes of other people,” Lydia told local station WTVR-CBS6.
She said she felt pushed to write the letter after an incident last week, when school officials told members of the field hockey team that they had violated the dress code when they wore athletic shorts — which are, for the record, part of their uniform — to school on Spirit Day.
“The fact that our school would have uniforms for a school sport that were then not acceptable for the dress code during the school day, that’s ridiculous,” she said.
Plus, she added, the punishment was clearly sexist, since only the girls’ team was asked to change out of their athletic clothing.
“Absolutely the young ladies are being targeted,” said Lydia. “I’ve seen boys in athletic shorts and girls aren’t allowed to wear them.”
She also showed the news stations a PowerPoint presentation created by the school, which outlined various types of clothing that James River considers “unacceptable” for students to wear. Nine different kinds of girls’ clothing — including tops that show cleavage, midriff, or bra straps; denim shorts; tight pants; and athletic shorts — were on the list, while boys were only prohibited from wearing two types of clothing, including baggy pants sagging below the waist.
School officials didn’t respond directly to Lydia’s letter, but Chesterfield Schools spokesperson Shawn Smith said the students were asked to change because their uniforms (as well as cheerleader uniforms) don’t meet the requirements of the dress code. He added that the team wore their uniforms on Spirit Day without the knowledge of either James River administrators or their coach.
Still, Lydia pointed out, athletic shorts that make up part of a team uniform are hardly the same thing as a miniskirt.
“They’re not provocative by any means I would say,” she said.
And even if the field hockey players did break the dress code, it seems pretty harsh to ask them to change into sweatpants with “DRESS CODE” emblazoned on them. Dressing for high school is already hard enough, without the school itself making public shaming and humiliation part of its official policy.
“The fact that shame is being used as a punishment is completely wrong to me,” Lydia told WWBT-NBC12.
Maybe before they assign it for school reading lists, the people in charge of James River should refresh their memory on The Scarlet Letter — because we know that case of public shaming worked out great for everyone in the end.
(Image: Sony Pictures)