The school principal has now opened the dress code up for debate.
On the first day of school this year at San Benito High School, which is located in Hollister, CA, female students received a shock when many were found in violation of the dress code for wearing clothes they had always worn at school. About 50 female students were sent to the office for wearing off-the-shoulder tops, and over 20 were sent home to change into something else that covered their shoulders.
Backlash ensued as school administrators insisted that the dress code was enforced to “keep kids safe” but students pointed out that no such enforcement had occurred at this magnitude or for this off-the-shoulder look in the past. In fact, students flipped through last year’s yearbook and found that tons of female students were wearing off-the-shoulder tops for their senior portraits.
“The dress code policy hasn’t been an issue the past two years I have been here,” an anonymous female student who had previously worn similar tops told Yahoo! “It’s not harming anyone physically….I think it is ridiculous how we have to fight against [the school] to wear a shirt that is not harming anyone.”
In response, a few male students decided to stage a protest by wearing female off-the-shoulder blouses to show that the style is not offensive and that the school needs to make changes. Students referred to as Aydrian and Brody as well as Andrei Vladimirov donned the tops and attended school without being turned in for any dress code violations. They garnered laughs and approval from students who also believe that the rule is archaic and want to change the dress code altogether.
“What I find problematic about this [keep kids safe] response is that if someone did try to assault a woman, the responsibility should lie solely on the attacker, not the victim,” Vladimirov explained to HuffPost. “A woman never ‘asks’ to be objectified, assaulted or raped ― and such thinking is what creates harmful consequences. Women deserve to be treated with respect ― and to be treated with respect is to be given the freedom to express one’s self, and hold agency as an individual.”
School principal Adrian Ramirez has commended the individuals for their interest in amending the dress code and further explained that keeping kids safe means that no student should be allowed to wear tops that aren’t secured, even boys. This poses the risk of the blouse falling or being easily pulled down by someone else, which is something that Vladimirov said would be the perpetrator’s fault, not the victim.
Overall, the experience has been eye-opening for both the school administrators and female students who now see that they have an ally in their fellow students. This type of local activism is what makes small changes turn into big changes and has inspired some to continue voicing their concerns about how their school and community are run.
“It’s been a really good process for me as principal to sit down and hear where issues arose,” Principal Ramirez said. “We would never blame a female student for another student being distracted by something they wore. The other thing is as a school, we should be looking back and looking at how consistently we address the dress code across campus, and that’s something else students have brought up.”
The next step is a faculty meeting in which the dress code will be discussed and a sit-down with the Associated Student Body to “start a conversation regarding dress code.”