Ridiculous school dress codes are nothing new, but the way a group of teens is protesting the unfair standards at their school is truly unique.
High schoolers at the Charleston County School of the Arts (CCSOA) were fed up with a dress code they call “sexist” and “unfair,” so they decided to protest by wearing a scarlet letter “A” pinned to their clothing. The move is inspired by The Scarlet Letter, the story of a 15th-century woman named Hester Prynne who was forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her dress as a shaming tactic after she committed adultery.
Students at CCSOA feel that their school’s dress code disproportionately targets girls and “slut-shames” them while letting boys wear whatever they want. Reese Fischer, who masterminded the protest, told the Charleston Post and Courier that a school guidance counselor told her “heavier girls” must wear longer skirts, and a teacher once stated that she “might as well be wearing underwear” instead of respectfully expressing that her shorts were too short. Meanwhile, she says, boys walk around in “muscle tank tops with half their sides hanging out” and no one says a word.
Fischer doesn’t oppose dress codes entirely, but she feels the inherent double standard in policing only women’s bodies needs to be addressed. That’s why she organized the effort to wear the letters, and so far more than 100 other students and faculty members have joined her cause. The students have been sharing photos of themselves donning scarlet letters on their Instagram accounts.
CCSOA’s principal, Robert Perrineau, has yet to announce whether or not changes will be made in the school’s dress code, but he told the Post and Courier that he’s impressed with the students’ “peaceful activism” regarding the matter. He called it “learning in action” and said it’s a reminder to staff to be “fair and equitable” in enforcing the rules they already have.
High school kids are often accused of being short-sighted and self-absorbed, but these kids are blowing that stereotype out of the water. Not only have they come together for a common goal, but they’ve also devised an ingenious way to protest and raise awareness while still remaining civil and conforming to all the necessary school rules.
Their instincts about the dress code and the way it’s allegedly being enforced are spot on, and it’s really thrilling to see young people — especially young women — standing up for their beliefs in such a bold way. Whether there’s an official change in school policy or not, these kids have accomplished their mission of raising awareness and making people think. They’ve also shown the world what tenacious, dedicated young people we’ve got in our midst. It’s safe to say the future is in good hands.