By SADIE PRICE-ELLIOTT, age 13

These middle school student activists in New Jersey started the #IAmMoreThanADistraction campaign after their school’s administration sent out multiple emails about the dress code, specifically focusing on female students. PHOTO: #IAmMoreThanADistraction/Facebook
These middle school student activists in New Jersey started the #IAmMoreThanADistraction campaign after their school’s administration sent out multiple emails about the dress code, specifically focusing on female students. PHOTO: #IAmMoreThanADistraction/Facebook

Girls across the United States are fighting to wear comfortable clothes to school without being labeled a “distraction.” As of 2014, students at 57 percent of public schools in the country have a “strict dress code,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. In May 2014, a group of middle school girls in New Jersey started the hashtag campaign, #IAmMoreThanADistraction, after their school’s administration sent out multiple emails about the dress code, specifically focusing on female students.

They weren’t alone. In Evanston, IL, Haven Middle School students protested their strict dress code by wearing leggings to class. Sophia Hasty, a student activist behind the protests, says the new rules aren’t fair. “The reason [is] basically: ‘boys,’” she argued. “It’s a lot like saying that if guys do something to harass us, it’s our fault for that. We’re the ones being punished for what guys do.”

The way dress codes are enforced can also be a problem. School administrations in Oklahoma and New Jersey schools have been accused of calling their students negative names and embarrassing them in class for violating the dress code.

According to a survey by NPR, dress codes usually target girls more than boys. Haven Middle School commented on their dress code, saying, “We believe…that it is essential to our school’s climate that we set a standard of expectation and decorum.” However, the unequal targeting of girls could be a violation of Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination in federally funded educational settings.

Thirteen-year-old New Jersey Middle School student Sarah Wolf, who helped start #IAmMoreThanADistraction, said, “It shouldn’t be that you can’t wear something that makes you feel comfortable because other people have opinions about it.”


Decorum: behavior that is considered acceptable for a specific environment or situation