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WATCH: Students, parents demand changes to St. Johns County dress code implementation after yearbook photos edited to cover girls' chests

A couple of the girls wore the same outfits to Tuesday's school board workshop to drive their point home.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A school board workshop in St. Johns County Tuesday became the site of emotional pleading from parents and students alike demanding the school district change the way it implements its dress code policy, which all who spoke agreed is sexist.

Many of the comments were from parents and students of Bartram Trail High School, which made international headlines after editing dozens of girls' school photos in its yearbook to cover their chests and shoulders. The district said that policy is in line with its code of conduct. But, the girls say they were never told their outfits were not dress code compliant.

A couple of the girls wore the same outfits to Tuesday's school board workshop to drive their point home. Zoe, a freshman with a 4.0 GPA who says she's never been in trouble.

"When you see me, do you think my outfit is immodest?" she asked the school board. "I did not receive a dress code violation the day of the yearbook photos ... so why does the school now say that I was out of dress code on photo day?"

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"The message is loud and clear from the school: Our bodies are a problem, and that is the most important thing about us," Zoe said. "If that were not true, why did the school look at my yearbook photo and see something sexual that should be shamed?"

Zoe's mother also spoke about her daughter's outfit choice, explaining that her daughter lives with an incurable illness that caused her to lose her hair.

"She picked a lavender sweater and a pretty necklace to help her not be mistaken for a boy," Zoe's mom said.

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Riley O'Keefe, a freshman whose edited photos were the first to go viral, told the school board that the issue started well before the yearbook was released.

"The implementation of the dress code has become the distraction," Riley said. "School should be a safe space ... I don't feel safe or focused in my learning environment. I am constantly worried that I will be pulled out of class and punished for my attire."

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A mother of two girls at Bartram Trail says the school board should not rush its changes to the county's dress code, but should set up committees and hold town halls for feedback from the public in order to "take (their) time and do it right."

"The proposed changes are a slap in the face to every single female student in St. Johns County," she said.

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Earlier in the workshop, a few changes to the dress code were proposed, including removing the word "modest," defining what attire is considered "distracting" and eliminating language that separates standards based on students' gender.

But several parents agreed, those changes aren't enough.

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A father of a Bartram Trail High School student agreed the school board needs more time, and more evidence-based data to consider before rushing to make changes to its code of conduct.

"There was not a lot of meat in the presentation. There was no data presented as to what changes will be made to the code of conduct," he said. "I would love to see an advocate from our side over on that podium over there."

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One student spoke who does not attend Bartram Trail High School, but rather St. Augustine High School. She agreed the district's dress code needs to be applied more consistently.

Eliza, a sophomore, says her sister, a 6th grader, has been told by boys in her class that she needs to go to the principal's office because of her outfits.

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One St. Johns County school board member spoke before the public comment period, acknowledging the decision to digitally alter the Bartram Trail yearbook photos was a mistake.

"We have 40,000 students and over 2,000 employees, and we make mistakes," said St. Johns County School Board Member Patrick Canan. "But we live and we learn."

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Canan ended the public comment period by assuring the parents and students at the meeting that their comments were being heard.

"There's nobody here that wants to see any young woman shamed or embarrassed," Canan said. "I promise you that this will be addressed."

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