LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A dress code violation at one local high school has spawned a movement all across America and now the globe.
“It’s creating this whole idea surrounding negativity about body image and a lot of girls feel put down by a dress code because their body doesn’t fit clothing article a certain way,” says Laura Orsi, who attends Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School in Little Rock.
Orsi says she was inspired to launch the passtheskirt.com movement after her friend had a panic attack in her school’s office when administration told her the skirt she was wearing was “too short” for the dress code.
“They thought she was faking a panic attack,” explains Orsi. “After I heard this I wore the same skirt the very next day, walked past the same administrators and nothing.”
It was then Orsi says she asked other students to help stand up for dress code inequality on campus. She asked students to wear shorts or skirts and pass them to another student of a different race or gender. They were encouraged to share their stories by posting a picture with the hashtag #PassTheSkirt.
“This is an important issue,” explains Orsi. “Dress code is not only a problem in the Little Rock School District but it’s also a problem across the state, across the nation, and sometimes even globally.”
Now, Orsi has linked with students from several different Little Rock School District (LRSD) schools to stand-up and speak out about what they feel is an injustice in gender and race equality.
“This isn’t about not following the rules, it’s about keeping up with the time,” says Jamaica Myton, a junior at Central High School in Little Rock. “Things are always constantly evolving.”
According to the most recently published 109-page student handbook, LRSD Dress Code implements that the student’s hemline of their shorts or skirt cannot be more than four inches above the knee.
It goes on to state, “students are not to wear suggestive or revealing clothing that diverts attention from the learning process”.
“What may look suggestive on one student may not on another, but then why are adults looking at our bodies in that way?” asks Orsi. “Some students get hand-me-downs and can’t afford new clothing – shouldn’t school be about education?”
James Slack, who attends Central High School and identifies with the LGBTQ community, says clothing shouldn’t be the focus, but instead it should be on education.
Slack says LGBTQ youth are vulnerable to school dress code policies sometimes being called out for not wearing clothing to their assigned birth gender.
“I would follow the rules if it was more inclusive,” Slack explains. “Including more genders and more people who are of other races and if it wasn’t targeting a certain group of people.”
The Parkview High School principal released a statement to the entire student body, according to Pamela Smith, director of communications for LRSD.
Principal Randy Rutherford’s statement:
“We were made aware of a matter related to the dress code that conflicts with our LRSD Student Handbook. It is now a topic on social media. Our dress code is outlined on page 8 of the handbook and is a district policy matter, not intended to be discriminatory in nature. As you are aware, our school is one of the most inclusive campuses in the state. However, we do respect student voices and welcome them to participate in, and contribute ideas to propose changes to the Student Handbook Committee this Spring. We will be following up with you soon to remind you of the invitation for students to participate.“
Principal Randy Rutherford declined to give an on-camera interview, according to Pamela Smith.
Smith went on to say via text message, “We will be following up with all LRSD schools regarding student representation on the handbook committee this spring and that students have always been invited to serve on the committee.”
Smith included an email correspondence a form for students to fill out to participate in the 2019-2020 Student Handbook process. This process includes helping to implement changes to the handbook, including dress code policies.
LRSD students say they were never informed of the possibility of serving as a student representative for a committee or that a committee for dress code ever excited.
However, the students were pleased to learn the school district was willing to hear their voices.
“I made an FOIA request downtown to get actual statistics on dress coding data in LRSD,” says Orsi. “It’s discriminatory because especially with dress code it’s just so subjective to body type.”