Photo Courtesy of Charlotte Cooper

On the first day of school at San Benito School in Hollister, California, around 50 girls and two boys were called to the office for violating dress code, for a rule that had not previously been enforced. Of those girls and boys, about 20 were sent home for wearing supposedly “revealing clothing,” because the administration wanted to “keep the kids safe.” Apparently, shoulders are “revealing,” and will affect one’s safety. High schoolers have never seen shoulders before. Girls’ senior pictures aren’t taken with off the shoulder black dress tops. Shoulders aren’t a completely nonsexual and innocent body part whatsoever. Shoulders are too tempting, provocative and revealing. How dare teenage girls wear off the shoulder tops in mid-August. Expecting students to follow a rule that you have not enforced previously is unrealistic and unfair. Consistency within school rules is a huge issue I have seen firsthand. At my uniform high school, we were not permitted to wear tan flats, only brown or black ones. My freshman year, this issue was never addressed. People would wear Sperries, tan flats, and other variations of shoes that weren’t necessarily “dress code appropriate,” but the administration and teachers never said anything about it. My junior year, students were being punished for wearing tan shoes. They weren’t sent home, but they would be given a warning, written up, or given detention. I had an issue with that at the time because they expected us to follow a rule that years before, they didn’t enforce. Students were being punished for something that was normal and accepted. You can’t expect a junior to suddenly adhere to rules that for the past two years, they haven’t had to follow. The same idea goes for these female students, except this time, the rule is enforced strictly with females, but not with males. This isn’t the first time a high school dress code has been an issue for female students, either. In August, 2015 in Illinois, four young women claimed that their school regulations were sexist and interfering with their high-school experience, for the same reason as the girls in Hollister, California: off the shoulder shirts. In April, a junior at Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, Texas, was asked to call her mom to bring her pants to change into because a school administrator deemed her dress too short. The bottom line, missed by some people, is that these school regulations are policing young women’s bodies, and not young men’s. In this situation in Hollister, California, 20 female students’ educations were interrupted because of their shoulders. Male and female students alike recognized that this was a sexist enforcement of the dress code, and because of that, some boys decided to wear shirts similar to the ones the girls were wearing the day they were sent home. Boys came to school donning off the shoulder tops, and if the rule was enforced as it was with the girls, these boys would have been sent home. The boys weren’t sent home. The boys’ educations were not affected by the protest, but they surely did attract attention. “A lot of people want to emphasize the male students’ part in this protest, which I respect, but the purpose of this whole thing was to protest sexism against female students,” Andrei Vladimirov, a male student at San Benito who participated in the protest said. The students that participated in this protest see this as a bigger issue than merely female students’ shirts. The issue is that we’ve seen issues of sexist enforcement of dress codes in high schools on many social media platforms, without valid defense. In San Benito School’s case, the administration’s defense was about safety. What kind of safety are they referring to? Whether a girl is showing her shoulders or not, harassing her would still be wrong, and if you can’t trust your teachers, male students, and administration to not keep their eyes off the girls’ shoulders and their hands off the shirt, then that’s a much bigger problem in itself. These boys that chose to protest acknowledged that. The issue here is much bigger than one girl’s shirt, or 20 girls’ shirts. The issue is about the girl whose mom is asked to leave work to bring her pants. The issue is about the girl whose sweater shows her collarbone-and apparently that is provocative. The issue is about the inconsistency in dress code enforcement. Whether it’s suddenly enforcing rules they didn’t previously, may that be a rule regulating shirts, shoes, or dresses, or whether it’s enforcing it for one gender and not the other, the inconsistency is unfair to the students who are merely there to get their education. In case anyone forgot, that is why we go to school.

Madison is the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times. She is a junior double majoring in Communication and Spanish, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Madison is from Fayetteville, North Carolina, so naturally she loves J. Cole and has seen his house more times than she can count. When she isn’t binge watching a TV show or writing for the Niner Times, she’s working at Mellow Mushroom, drinking iced coffee or attending a concert with her friends. For any inquiries, she can be reached at