High School Defends Dress Code As Student Launches Petition To Change It

| by Jordan Smith

A 17-year-old senior at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California, is leading a campaign against her school’s “sexist” dress code.

Danielle Ernst said she was reprimanded in early October for wearing a V-neck top underneath an unbuttoned cardigan, the Orange County Register reported.

“They told me I was a distraction,” Ernst told the Register. “I felt really self-conscious. I didn’t think they had the right to make me feel like that.”

The senior was told that if she violated the dress code again, she would face detention as punishment.

She reacted by setting up an online petition and making posters to draw attention to her concern.

“As females, we are told we are not allowed to wear clothing that is too low cut or showing too much skin,” Ernst wrote on the petition site Care2. “Why? Because it is inappropriate and distracting. It is incredibly sexist and offensive to tell someone what they are wearing is inappropriate for school or too distracting. If someone is comfortable and confident in what they wear, what gives you the right to make them feel self conscious?”

The petition, set up on Oct. 7, garnered over 7,500 signatures by Oct. 16.

Tammy Blakely, spokeswoman for the Saddleback Valley Unified District, told the Register that students already have a say in the dress code because student representatives are part of the group that evaluates it each year.

The school’s dress code prohibits “clothing that is too revealing or too low cut.” Other things deemed unacceptable include wearing a “hat that is tilted to the side or backward,” “doo rags,” or “shorts, pants, or skirts that are torn or ripped in inappropriate places.”

Ernst hopes her petition can bring about change.

“The dress code blames women for what they wear,” she said. “It’s not blaming the dirty minds.”

Ernst’s protest is part of a growing number of similar initiatives across the country.

Students at Arvada West High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, planned a protest for Oct. 15 in opposition to their school's dress code.

One student had already been written up for four violations “just by dresses that show a little bit of my back, my shoulders or jeans that have holes above the knee,” she told ABC 7News Denver.

Sources: Orange County Register, ABC 7News Denver / Photo credit: Orange County Register