Back in 2007, when I was in 7th grade, I used my birthday money to buy some clothes from Abercrombie — just like all the popular kids at school were wearing. Feeling confident about myself, I wore my new outfit to school. It was a red undershirt beneath a cardigan and a short denim skirt over opaque brown leggings. I felt cool and got a lot of compliments from my friends.
At the end of lunchtime, I was told I had to go to the office because my outfit was “inappropriate.” At the office, I was forced to wear a random old sweatshirt from the lost-and-found around my waist for the rest of the day. This diversion made me late for class, and you best believe it was incredibly embarrassing to walk back into a room of my peers with that ratty sweater on.
So when I read in the New York Times that the superintendent of the Georgia school district where a viral photo of packed hallways and lack of masks was taken said that there was “no way to mandate” students wearing masks during a pandemic, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my middle school experience.
This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM
— 🇯🇲Black 🇭🇹 Aziz 🇳🇬 aNANsi 🇹🇹 (@Freeyourmindkid) August 4, 2020
My story isn’t unique. For decades, girls have been pulled out of class and/or sent home for the day because they wore a tank top, or leggings, or any other item of clothing that accentuated the fact they *gasp* happen to have bodies. Even male students have gotten in trouble for wearing “gang colors,” or just having the wrong hairstyle.
Lol and yet my high school seemed to enforce useless dress codes for skirt length and skinny strap tanks and bandanas they considered “gang colors” without much trouble https://t.co/Nej8Wsfqjj
— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) August 7, 2020
hello, yes, Georgia schools? I remember you policing visible bra straps and the length of our skirts with an actual ruler—you can 100% enforce a mask mandate. I believe in you.
— Katie Lambert (@KatieELambert) August 5, 2020
When I was in high school in Georgia we were not allowed to wear scrunchies on our wrists or wear our purses diagonally across our chests because both were deemed too provocative. Georgia schools can surely enforce a mask mandate.
— Elizabeth Cauvel (@ElizabethCauvel) August 5, 2020
Georgia schools will suspend you for dyeing your hair, but don’t know how to enforce a mask mandate
— Matthew Mutnick (@MatthewMutnick) August 5, 2020
The specific Georgia school district in question (which, by the way, suspended the student who took that viral photo) has a fairly extensive dress code:
Georgia’s Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott told the Washington Post that “wearing a mask is a personal choice, and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them.” Here’s their school district’s dress code. https://t.co/1cXrHFawfU pic.twitter.com/qMXe2ySGfs
— 💀 damned sinker 💀 (@dansinker) August 5, 2020
It prohibits holes/rips/tears in clothing, patches, pants that touch the floor, wide-legged pants, sleeveless shirts, deep-scooped necklines, etc. There’s no question in my mind that such dress code requirements, in this school district and at others, are steeped in sexism, racism, and classism.
If mask-wearing is a “personal choice,” as Superintendent Brian Otott insists, isn’t also wearing some torn jeans? Why does the appropriate dress requirement suddenly stop when it comes time to prevent the spread of a deadly illness?
And why suspend Hannah Watters, the student that took the photo, for pointing out what hypocrites you are? Where’s her freedom of speech gone? It’s almost as if the school knows they’re doing something wrong, and just wants to hide it.
Close the schools and go back to virtual learning, or require masks. This shouldn’t be so hard when people’s lives are literally at stake.
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