Portia Espinosa felt uncomfortable when a teacher publicly challenged her in front of her peers for wearing a top revealing her shoulders in violation of the dress code.
“It was in the middle of the cafeteria when all the students in my class were there,” said the 14-year-old Newberry High School freshman. “It’s embarrassing. No one wants to have a dress code or be called out or put in front of everyone.”
Today, Portia is teaming up with Girl Scouts Troop 224 to reform the culture around the dress code for public schools in Alachua County. Girls use this effort to reach their Silver Award, an honor that signifies the success of a community service project.
In the current state of the dress code, the group considers it unfair and discriminatory against girls.
The troop compiled data from students across CSGA to support their views on the dress code.
Over 100 students responded to a Google form with questions about how many times an individual has been subjected to a dress code, how comfortable they are when it comes to a dress code, and whether they have received a referral for too many dress code violations.
Of the 24 men surveyed, 17% had a dress code, according to their data. In comparison, 71% of the 126 women surveyed had a dress code.
The group collected more than 1,600 signatures in a petition advocating for a committee to investigate dress code issues in the county. They would like to see more non-discriminatory dress code policies as well as discreet enforcement and less severe penalties. As written, the dress code allows students to “be asked to quit an extracurricular activity” if they break its rules and allows other consequences if the violations continue.
On the website where they compiled their data, the troop presented a revised dress code, which includes changes such as removing the requirement that clothing not be “oversized” and pants “loose”. The girls also want to remove the existing conditions regarding the wearing of outer clothing such as jackets and sweaters.
The three girls leading the effort – Portia, Josie Kirwan and Bella Cline – agreed that young people should be ready to speak out and take a stand on issues that affect them.
Josie, a 14-year-old Gainesville High School freshman and troupe member, believes a CSGA dress code update is long overdue.
“The main things we have a problem with in the dress code is that it’s sexist and it targets taller girls,” Josie said.
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The group results indicate that CSGA students who weigh about 123 pounds were given a dress code six or more times during the school year, while students weighing about 115 pounds were given a dress code about two or three times.
Girls are also concerned that the dress code enforcement policies are too strict.
Their to study found that 31% of students surveyed who were given a dress code were not allowed to participate in daily school activities because of what they were wearing.
“I think the dress code is more of a distraction for students than the clothes could ever be,” said Josie, noting that the violations could result in students being removed from the class.
They are also concerned that the dress code will often occur in public, often resulting in embarrassment for the students involved. their data shows that over 90% of students surveyed have stories like Espinosa’s where the dress code was enforced in front of others rather than in an individual setting.
Jessica Kirwan, the mother of Josie, 42, said the troupe managed to raise their concerns earlier in the year to Donna Kidwell-Diehlman, the former CSGA executive director of hospital services. education and support for outstanding students.
Because of changes initiated by new superintendent Carlee Simon, Kidwell-Diehlman was no longer working there at the end of June. Simon did not renew the contracts of a number of CSGA officials, including Deanna Feagin, Principal of Glen Springs Elementary School, and Thomas Cowart, Director of Maintenance and Construction.
Kirwan said the troupe needed to find a new contact at the school board so they could submit their dress code proposals.
Bella, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at PK Yonge Development School, believes dress code policies undermine the educational purpose the school is supposed to serve because of the emphasis on dress. students.
“I think it targets girls in particular, and it distracts from the fact that we’re supposed to learn and don’t come to school for clothes,” said Bella.
Bella is passionate about making a difference.
“Personally, I would just say go if it’s important to you and it’s something that impacts you or the people you know,” she said. “Someone has to start making a change, and it might as well be you.”
Contact Omar Ateyah at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @OAteyah.
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Omar is a second year journalism student and press assistant for The Alligator. He enjoys taking long, thoughtful walks.