Students At Tri-North Middle School Take Action Regarding Sexist Dress Code


A group of students from one eighth grade class at Tri-North pose for a picture in their handmade shirts. Many more students in other classes participated as well, including many male students.

Frances Sheets, Reporter

On Monday, May 15, a group of Tri-North Middle School students staged a peaceful protest in response to the school’s dress code, which is seen by many students as sexist and unfairly applied.

The protest involved wearing t-shirts with handwritten slogans on them made by students. Both male and female students took part in protesting the policies that are currently in place.

Girls wore shirts saying “not a distraction,” while boys’ shirts said “not distracted.” Students also wore shorts, and some cut the sleeves off of their shirts.

Both tank tops and shorts shorter than a certain length are in direct violation of the dress code. These rules, though, are often only enforced on girls. Tri-North’s dress code repeatedly states that girl’s attire must not be “distracting,” which is a judgement call left up to individual teachers and administrators.

The protest was brought on by the increasing upset felt by many female students over the seemingly unfair code. This is the case in many schools, where dress codes are enforced harshly on female students and not at all on males for some of the same dress.

Eighth grader Ally Stallsmith helped to organize and participated in the protest. “At Tri-North, we felt that the message being sent to girls and the majority of the student body was that young women’s bodies are something to be hidden, and something to be ashamed of,” Stallsmith said. “We not only wanted, but needed to make a change.”

Dress codes such as Tri-North’s could be perceived to promote the sexualization of young girls, as well as the ever present rape culture that exists throughout America.

Gabrielle Barker, another eighth grader that helped to spearhead the protest, thinks that the dress code is not an appropriate use of administrative jurisdiction. “It teaches guys that it is ok to objectify women, and that women should cover up their bodies to avoid being seen as a sexual object,” she said. “It makes girls feel as though their bodies are inherently sexual and that they aren’t appropriate for the public.”

Many would argue that at such a young and vulnerable age, this is not the message that should be sent to teen girls, or boys, for that matter.

Even so, the Tri-North administration is slow to respond to student complaints. Prior to the protest, several students and parents had already written emails and letters to the administration regarding the biased rules.

A group of around 14 students met with counselors, Vice Principal Floyd, and Principal Fisher at Tri-North Monday afternoon to voice their complaints. Students who asked to record the meeting and take minutes were directly told not to, even though it was in their complete legal right to do so.

Students were disappointed with the response from the administration, saying that their tone was condescending and nervous.

Several students also reported that some male students at Tri-North did not handle the protest well. The self-declared “meninists” verbally harassed female students participating in the protest throughout the day.

Many students, from middle school and high school, took to social media to voice their opinions and hash out arguments regarding the dress code. While many students were in support of the protest, many felt that it was unnecessary. “They’re not gonna change anything,” commented Alex Grannan, a student at North, on an Instagram post relating to the protest. “Decades of school kids have gone through dress codes more strict that today’s, I think you’ll survive.”

Despite some negative feedback, students at Tri-North are holding true to their convictions. A group of five students also met with a reporter from the Herald Times, and some are considering attending the school board meeting on Tuesday night.