Target: Mr. Stanley Teitel, Principal of Stuyvesant High School
Goal: Enforce the dress code fairly and reasonably for all students.
Stuyvesant High School in New York has been the subject of media attention recently when students staged a ‘Slutty Wednesday’ protest of the dress code. According to the school’s policy, student dress must follow three guidelines:
“Sayings and illustrations on clothing should be in good taste. Shoulders, undergarments, midriffs and lower backs should not be exposed. The length of shorts, dresses and skirts should extend below the fingertips with the arms straight at your side.”
The dress code itself is reasonable enough, although the emphasis on shoulders and skirts could be said to target girls. However, the way it is enforced has an even greater disparate impact on girls, especially those with ‘more curvy’ body types, according to a student, Madeline Rivera. Lucinda Ventimiglia, another student, says, “I’ve been told that even though my skirts were technically acceptable, they were still too short for me to wear, and once it was suggested that I should follow a separate dress code, wherein my skirts should end at least four inches past my fingertips, preferably at my knees.” One school official told Ventimiglia that she shouldn’t ‘show off her curves’ in school; Ventimiglia reports, “She then went on to say that the dress code was only instituted for my protection, because there are a lot of bad men outside school, and if I was raped nobody would be able to take that away from me. Then, she said, ‘and you want a husband, don’t you?’”
This incident of victim-blaming language and the broader targeting of female and ‘curvy’ students demonstrate the school’s noticeably sexist enforcement of an otherwise reasonable standard. If the rules say skirts should be at or below fingertip length, it is not okay to penalize students with a certain body type for wearing skirts that fit that definition because of how they look on their bodies. And it is never okay to insinuate blame for a potential sexual assault based on clothing.
Title IX, a national piece of legislation that protects against gender discrimination in educational institutions, aims to protect students’ right to be treated equally, regardless of gender. This enforcement of Stuyvesant’s dress code qualifies as disparate impact, since it targets girls, which represents a violation of female students’ rights.
Sign the petition below to tell Principal Stanly Teitel to change the way faculty enforces the dress code—enforce the same rules for all students, regardless of gender or body type.
Dear Principal Stanley Teitel,
As you must know after Stuyvesant students’ ‘Slutty Wednesday’ protest, the dress code at your school is a significant issue. The guidelines themselves are reasonable, but they are being enforced in such a way that girls, especially ‘curvy’ girls, are targeted.
Lucinda Ventimiglia, for example, reported that although her skirt was fingertip length, she was still told that she was violating the dress code and that she should ‘show off her curves’ outside of school. Even worse, she was told that the dress code existed for her protection, because she could be raped and, thus, never get married if she dressed too provocatively.
This is unacceptable. Targeting students by gender and body type puts Stuyvesant High School’s dress code enforcement under the category of disparate impact, a type of gender discrimination that is illegal under Title IX.
Please change the way your faculty enforces the dress code. Instruct them to adhere to the rules as written, regardless of gender or body type.
[Your Name Here]