ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla — The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the St. Johns County School Board to make broad changes to the dress code within its student code of conduct.
In a letter to the board, the ACLU commends the St. Johns County School District's recent decision to adopt a gender-neutral dress code policy, but says there are many other issues that need to be resolved within the policy.
"According to news reports and reports from affected students and families, it appears that school officials within the School District have been selectively enforcing the dress code against girls in a manner that reinforces invidious sex stereotypes," the letter says. The letter goes on to say that selective application violates several laws, including the Fourteenth Amendment, Title IX, the Florida Constitution and the Florida Educational Equity Act.
In June, the school district formed a dress code committee following months of student and parent efforts to have the district make changes to the dress code policy, which they say is sexist and discriminatory. It gained nationwide attention after dozens of yearbook photos at Bartram Trail High School were altered to cover girls' chests and shoulders, despite the girls saying they were never told their outfits violated the dress code on picture day.
The ACLU letter says the proposed revisions to the dress code continue to contain terms that will have a discriminatory impact on girl students, such as "unrealistic limits on lengths of bottoms."
"Such biased enforcement harms all students, regardless of gender, but has particularly harmful impacts on girls and transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming students," the letter says.
Public records show 83% of dress code violations in St. Johns County Schools and 90% at Bartram Trail High School were for female students.
"We therefore urge you not only to revise the dress code policy to immediately remove all sex-specific terms, but also to root out provisions that reflect and reinforce gender stereotypes, revise or abandon the 'Dress For Success' program, take steps to solicit additional feedback and comments from students and parents regarding their experiences with the dress code, and implement longer-term measures such as providing guidance and training for school staff and administrators to guard against further discriminatory enforcement," the letter says.
Scroll down to view the letter in its entirety.