A Student Started A Powerful Movement Against Dress Code Discrimination

by Thea Glassman
Image via Laura Orsi/Instagram

A student is standing up against dress code discrimination with a new movement called “Pass The Skirt”

Two weeks ago, Clara Mitchell, a student at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School in Little Rock, was told that her skirt was too short and she’d need to change her clothes. Mitchell panicked. Her parents work full-time so it would be hard for them to bring her a new outfit. Also, she didn’t want to miss her presentation at the science symposium. She texted her friend Laura Orsi, who came to comfort her.

That was a watershed moment for Orsi, who launched a movement called “Pass The Skirt” to fight dress code discrimination.

Orsi told TODAY that her school’s dress code policy has often felt arbitrary. “Different administrators will get kids for different things, and have different ideas of what ‘out of dress code’ really means,” she said. “That’s the main thing that inspired me — wanting everyone to be dress coded equally and to set a good standard.”

But there were deeper issues at play. Orsi suspected that her friend was given a violation because she was Asian – and decided to put that theory to the test. The high school student wore the very same skirt that Mitchell had gotten in trouble for and received zero complaints from administration. She even went out of her way to bump into the same school official who had told Mitchell that the skirt was inappropriate and still nothing.

This proved her deeply troubling point. “I wore the same skirt the next day originally to prove that minority girls are treated differently than white girls. I still stand by that,” Orsi said. “We live in a society that breeds deep, subtle, often unrealized racism, and I think that’s why she was coded.”

Orsi decided that dress code discrimination needs to be called out. She started a website called Pass The Skirt, which encourages students to wear clothes that go against their school’s dress code and then pass those items around for one another to wear. This experiment will help determine if violations are handed out based on race. Orsi also noted that this is a sexist issue as well. Women’s clothing are policed far more then men’s, she said.

Students stepped up to Orsi’s call-to-action and sent in pictures of themselves taking up the “Pass The Skirt” challenge.

Many high schoolers also shared their own stories about dress code discrimination on Pass The Skirt’s website – and they’re deeply disturbing, and eye-opening.

One student wrote: “I live in Texas its 90 degrees on a good day, yet me wearing a pair of jeans with one hole 2 inches above my knee is unexceptable, yet if a dude does it its perfectly okay. I cant wear a shirt with less than 3 finger thickness on the shoulder and when you ask the principal why he tells you, you want people to respect you and you wouldn’t want people to call you a whore.”

Another student commented: “I got 3 days detention for having holes in my jeans above the knee because the holes in my jeans ‘distracted’ the guys in my class.”

Well, this is all completely horrendous. Lots of applause to Laura Orsi for creating an important, much-needed movement.