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Fort Mill student sparks dress code review. Here are violations by district, gender

The Fort Mill school district is reviewing its student dress code following parent and student complaints that the policy unfairly targets girls.

The Herald asked each of the York County school districts to provide the number of referrals (violations) related to their dress code for 2018-’19. Numbers show that in three of the county’s four districts, more female students received referrals related to the dress code.

Fort Mill parents created an online petition to ”create a fair and realistic dress code for students in Fort Mill public schools.” It had been signed by 5,680 people as of Oct. 3.

The parents’ efforts started after Fort Mill resident Mindy Neal’s 13-year-old daughter Amaya Neal was pulled out of class for dress code violations multiple times during the first week of school.

The first time, the Banks Trail Middle School eighth-grade student was told her shirt was not long enough to be worn with her leggings. The second time, she was told her yoga-style pants did not meet policy, Neal said.

“It’s about empowering women to speak out about the dress code and the policies that are created,” Amaya said last month. “The dress code is outdated and needs to be changed to fit modern times and modern clothing.”

Wearing shirts that said “I am not a distraction,” Amaya joined parents and students as they addressed the school board at the Sept. 10 meeting.

Over the next few months, Fort Mill principals will review the student dress code policy with members of their School Improvement Council, which include parents and community members, according to a district Facebook post last month. At the high school level, students also sit on improvement councils.

“Following the SIC meetings, the principals will meet with their school level principal groups to provide feedback and recommendations to the district administration,” reads the statement. “The administration will then seek input through a survey from all parents before drafting a new policy to be presented to the board.”

Policy changes require two readings by the school board before being implemented, according to the district.

“This process, along with the survey, will ensure that everyone has an equal voice in the development of this policy. We understand that everyone has a different viewpoint when it comes to the dress code,” reads the statement. “It is our job to work with everyone and find a solution to best serve the students in our district.”

Dress code violations in York County schools

Data provided by York County school districts show the number of dress code-related referrals in 2018-’19 by gender.

In Fort Mill, there were 12 dress code referrals at the high schools in 2018-’19 where the student received in-school or out-of-school suspension, said Joe Burke, district spokesperson. Dress code violations are only recorded when they result in disciplinary action, Burke said.

Of the high school referrals, 11 were female and one was for a male student, Burke said.

Fort Mill high schools served more than 4,550 students as of 2018-’19, according to S.C. school report cards.

At the middle school level in 2018-’19, Fort Mill had one dress code violation related to a female student, Burke said.

Rock Hill schools had 45 reported dress code violations in 2018-’19 at the high school level, said Mychal Frost, district spokesperson. Of those, six were male students and 39 were female students.

Rock Hill’s three high schools serve more than 5,100 students, Frost said.

Rock Hill’s five middle schools require students to wear uniforms, Frost said.

Clover had 10 dress code violation referrals in 2018-’19, six were girls and four were boys, said Bryan Dillon, district spokesperson. Nine of the referrals were at Clover High School and one was at a middle school related to a female student.

Clover High School served 2,376 students in 2018-’19, according to the state report card.

York schools saw eight dress code referrals in 2018-’19, said Tim Cooper, district spokesperson. At York Middle School, there were two for male students and two for females.

York Middle served 802 students in 2018-’19, according to the S.C. report card.

At York One Academy, an alternative school that requires students to wear uniforms, there were four dress code referrals, all related to boys, Cooper said.

Dress code policies can be found on the school districts’ websites.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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