Urge School to Abandon Sexist Dress Code


Target: Joseph Scarmato, Tottenville High School Principal

Goal: Change high school’s dress code to accommodate weather-appropriate attire

Students attending Tottenville High School in Staten Island, NY have been fighting for their right to wear weather-appropriate clothing at school. Recently, upwards of 200 students have been forced to serve detention for wearing tank tops, non-knee length shorts or skirts and low-cut shirts. Because much of the campus does not have air conditioning, students wear the prohibited clothing to be more comfortable. No matter the students’ reasons for wearing the clothing, the school’s faculty insists on punishing the students for wearing “inappropriate” clothing on the basis that the attire is distracting to other students, dangerous and interferes with learning.

The majority of students targeted are girls—90 percent of the 200 students punished were female. The main argument with this sort of behavior from faculty or society as a whole is that this enforcement of what women wear is sexist, and it fuels rape culture. Telling young girls not to wear tank tops or skirts because that clothing is “distracting” concludes that women are responsible for how men think and act, and therefore should not provoke men by dressing comfortably. This way of thinking is extremely damaging and unfairly punishing of women. Women and girls should be allowed to wear shorter shorts and tank tops to stay comfortable during warm weather, especially if frequented buildings have no air conditioning in the summer.

Tottenville High School does not have air conditioning throughout most of the building. Many of the 200 young people who have been detained for their attire still refuse to dress “appropriately,” rightly complaining that the buildings are too hot and the rules sexist and strict. Urge the principal of Tottenville High School to reconsider this outrageous clothing rule and stop fueling rape culture by punishing girls for dressing according to the weather.


Dear Joseph Scarmato,

Recently, Tottenville High School has acquired media attention because of the 200-plus students, 90 percent of which are young girls, who have received detention due to how they are dressed. The majority of students being reprimanded for their attire are young girls, an incredibly disheartening statistic that proves the dress code to be sexist. Sexism within classrooms is becoming all too common and unfortunately, it is often enforced by well-meaning faculty.

Tottenville High School students complain that the classrooms are sweltering hot and wearing baggy gym shorts and shirts (the punishment for breaking the dress code), is extremely uncomfortable. The students wear tank tops and shorter shorts because that is what girls and boys wear when it is hot outside. If Tottenville High School cannot provide air conditioning in all its classrooms, there is no firm reason for the strict dress code to continue. Furthermore, insisting that girls dress “appropriately” so as not to be a “distraction” directly blames the girls for the thoughts and actions of men and teenage boys.

I urge you, Mr. Scarmato, to reconsider this dress code and stop fueling sexism within your high school.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rockhead126 via Wikimedia Commons

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