Education

Thousands sign petition calling Fort Mill student dress code ‘unrealistic, unfair’

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition to change the student dress code in Fort Mill schools.

The petition posted to change.org calls for the Fort Mill school district to “create a fair and realistic dress code for students in Fort Mill public schools.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, 5,122 people signed the petition. The goal is to get 7,500 signatures.

The petition organizer is named as parents in the Fort Mill school district.

The petition describes the district’s current dress guidelines as “unrealistic, arbitrarily enforced, and unfair,” particularly for female students.

“Our sons should not be sent the message that the adults around them feel they are incapable of treating all females with respect, that they are unable to control themselves nor that a female’s attire is a license for distraction or to act inappropriately,” the petition states.

One comment states: “The current dress code tells girls to be afraid of what they wear and that a boy’s education is more important than hers.”

Fort Mill’s dress code was updated in 2017. The code prohibits tank tops, spaghetti straps and backless tops. Logos or clothing promoting alcohol, drugs, tobacco, racism, nudity or profanity also are not allowed.

Students wearing basketball jerseys or sleeveless athletic jerseys must wear sleeved shirts underneath, according to the policy.

Students who violate the dress code must change into appropriate clothing provided by the school or into their gym clothes or receive in-school suspension for the rest of the day, the policy states. Upon the third violation, the student will receive a day of ISS.

The petition asks the Fort Mill school board to revise the dress code and include both students and parents in the discussion.

Fort Mill school leaders in a statement to The Herald Tuesday said: “The district is aware of some concerns about the dress code policy circulating on social media and we are currently reviewing our policy and its implementation to ensure the policy is being applied consistently across all grade levels.

“With students transitioning from one school level to the next and our rapid growth rate we understand some students may be adjusting to a different dress code policy than they previously adhered to.”

The petition points to rules such as “shorts having to be no more than 4 inches above the crease of the knee, no tank tops.”

“Calling girls out for dress code violations has a negative impact on class time, self-esteem and relationship building with teachers and administrators,” the petition states.

The petition also says finding clothing that meets the guidelines is “often difficult or impossible to find.”

“Our daughters report that they feel forced to wear long pants and jeans even in 90-100 degree weather,” the petition states. “Not only does this present health risks, such as nausea, overheating and even fainting, but it promotes victim-blaming and negative or distorted body imaging and makes our daughters feel less empowered during an age when they are already emotionally vulnerable.”

The district said the dress code is similar to non-uniform polices across the state.

“The policy is also designed to be gender-neutral and is applied equally to males and females,” the district statement said.

The next Fort Mill school board meeting is 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the district office, 2233 Deerfield Drive.

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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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