Suit Yourself

Group protests sexist language, enforcement of the dress code.

Junior Julia Squitteri takes a picture in an outfit she cannot wear under the current dress code. The straps on her shirt break the code because they are too small and reveal much of her shoulders.

photo by Julia Squitteri

Junior Julia Squitteri takes a picture in an outfit she cannot wear under the current dress code. The straps on her shirt break the code because they are too small and reveal much of her shoulders.

When junior Julia Squitteri was followed down the hall and humiliated by an administrator because her midriff was showing, she knew something had to change. 

Squitteri, alongside four other students, have joined to create a new reform plan. They are protesting injustices they see with the Seminole County dress code, and advocating for reform. The plan focuses on the inequalities between girls of different body types and how the prioritization of the dress code over girls’ education. 

The official county-wide dress code uses phrasing referencing the “build and stature” of students, which can be seen as direct targeting of certain body types. 

“Most of the times I’ve been dress coded at Hagerty have been because I have a bigger chest size than most of my friends,” junior Abigail Hayward said. “The dress code forces us to cover up simply for having normal feminine body parts.”

This idea is expanded upon in the reformed proposal, as curvy girls explain the embarrassment they get out of being frequently dress-coded for wearing leggings. 

“I used to be confident in my body but now I’m extremely insecure,” one student who wished to remain anonymous said, after being told her leggings were “too revealing” because of her body type. Though some of these stories are from middle school, they show the flaws in the current dress code. 

The reformed proposal mentions that dress code violations cause girls to miss valuable class time because they may be “too distracting” for the male students around them. “The reason that I believe the [dress code] needs a reform is because they reinforce sex stereotypes that result in a toxic learning environment,” junior Jasmine Kaur said.

With these ideas in mind, the group points out that the specific arguments violate the Education Amendments of 1972. 

This states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The main change the group hopes to see is to the wording: less about size and figure, and more about making sure certain areas such as genitals are covered and that clothing is secured to the body. They want to establish a system similar to the HERO pass so that students who do violate the dress code aren’t missing class time as a result. 

This movement seems to be gaining traction, with one post Squitteri created on Instagram getting thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. 

Even the staff in charge of enforcing the dress code agrees the rules are not equal. “I definitely see room for improvement. I do think there are standards that have to be met by students in terms of wearing appropriate clothing for school, but I do think there is not a balance of expectations when it comes to what girls are expected to wear and what boys are expected to wear,” English and debate teacher Julie Durgin said.

“I believe that it is important to dress properly for every occasion,” continues Principal Robert Frasca. “I expect that our teacher should dress professionally for work, just as students should dress appropriately for school.”

Frasca goes on to note that, especially with HERO passes returning, the wording of the dress code regarding body types should have nothing to do with how the dress code is enforced.

While there are plenty of people backing the reform, other students are more hesitant to support this potential new dress code.

 “People know the rules and if they’re going to get offended by the rules being enforced that’s their problem. It’s not like people don’t know how it works,” one student said. “Just because you don’t like getting a ticket for speeding doesn’t mean you just don’t have to pay it.”

Others echo similar sentiments in the comments of Squitteri’s post, pointing out that the dress code is meant to prevent things like sexualization and potentially even sexual assault. 

Considering this county-wide debate affects around 67,000 students, and potentially others on a larger scale, there are many different perspectives at play. The reform plan and petition have been sent out to administrators across the county, with the reform team scheduled to meet with Frasca, who has now spoken about changes being implemented this year. 

“Lots of students from around SCPS have signed the petition and given their testimonies, but of course, there are some who believe this is us saying we want to walk around school with our butts out (which is not our goal),” Haddad said.