More Than a Distraction

Sarah and her friends team up to make change in their school

Part 1: The Problem

As soon as Sarah had heard that the female students in her school were being targeted for the dress code rules by administration, she knew that she was going to do something. It did not matter that it was still summer, and the classrooms were sweltering hot (Culp-Ressler). The only thing that seemed to matter to the school anymore was the education of a certain group of students that did not include the females who were constantly being reminded that their bodies were distractions (D'Anastasio). One of Sarah's girl friends, Tara, was forced to take off a skirt noted as too revealing and to put on a large t-shirt with gym shorts (Culp-Ressler). Another one of her girl friends, Rachel, had been called out in the middle of class when her teacher noticed her shoulders that were "overexposed" due to her sleeveless top. Rachel commented that it was “humiliating to be pulled aside like an object" to be told that her outfit was inappropriate (Culp-Ressler). Tara pointed out that maybe their school should be changed to an all boys school considering "this dress code is only affecting the girls,” (Culp-Ressler). It upset Sarah to know her friends felt and had been treated this way, along with over 200 other girls in her school who had recently been punished for dress code infringements as well (Culp-Ressler). Sarah felt that it was time to stand up for these girls.

Part 2: The Movement

Sarah, Tara, and Rachel decided that the first best step to take in seeing a change in the discrimination would be to reach out to their principal. He was the one that had written in three recent e-mails sent out to parents that, "Dress code continues to be a concern, specifically with our female students" (D'Anastasio). So, pointing out that this could be taken as sexist to him seemed to be a reasonable thing to do. The girls wrote him a letter regarding their concern. The only thing their principal had to say on the matter was alluding to the reason behind enforcing the dress code was strictly to establish and maintain a ‘learning environment' (D'Anastasio). Sarah was infuriated by this because this meant that the male students' learning environment was being prioritized at the female students' expense. This is when Sarah decided that she would need to reach out to the students to make enough of a difference. She could not do this alone. She began a club called More Than a Distraction, and her and her friends raised awareness about "what it means for a girl to be told that her appearance is frustrating her learning environment" over their social media sites (D'Anastasio). One of their first posts to catch attention was a post that said, “We shouldn’t be responsible for other people’s actions. When the school board is telling a girl that she has to dress a way so she won’t be distracting, that’s telling a girl that she needs to change herself, to make sure she’s not distracting. We are more than distractions to boys and the school environment” (D'Anatasio). The girls' new club got immediate awareness and attention, attracting male and female students who wanted the sexism to stop.

Part 3: The Solution

After gaining attention all throughout her school, Sarah had made the administrators agree to reconsider how they would enforce dress code restrictions. This was all Sarah had truly wanted. It was not necessarily what the code was that was sending a negative message, but it was the way the administration and educators had been speaking to and about the female students. All students from that point on would follow the dress code because it was a way to ensure order in their school and not because one gender was distracting the other. All students would officially be held accountable for their own actions and expected to respect one another. Sarah could not have been more pleased.