6th-Grader Leads Successful Protest Against Her School's Sexist Dress Code

A sixth grader is protesting her school's sexist dress code with the hashtag #imnotadistraction.


Nov. 18 2019, Updated 2:17 p.m. ET

The times, they are a-changing, and unfortunately attitudes about school dress codes have not caught up in the least. Not a day goes by where some girl isn't penalized or removed from class because her bra strap is peaking out or her shorts are too short. She's a "distraction" you see, for all the teen boys and their raging uncontrollable hormones. 

For some reason, boys are never removed from class because they can't control themselves. Luckily, young girls are learning earlier and earlier to stand up for themselves. 

For example, take Molly Neuner of King Middle School, a sixth-grader who organized a tank top protest amongst her classmates on Wednesday. Molly had gotten called out for wearing a razor-back tank top and threatened with detention after a teacher publicly measured the width of her tank top straps, according to the Portland Press Herald

In response, Molly and a bunch of other girls wore their tanks to school en masse, writing the hashtag #IAmNotADistraction on their arms:

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Principal Caitlin LeClair met with Molly's parents and promised that the feedback would be taken into consideration for next year's revamped dress code, though the current one would remain in place for the remainder of the school year. 

Portland's current code says that students cannot wear anything that would cause a “material and substantial disruption” in school, a phrase that Superintendent Xavier Botana told the press should be reconsidered. “I don’t believe we should be dictating fashion or measuring the length of shorts if it’s not a material and substantial distraction,” he said, then commented specifically on tank tops with: “I would be hard-pressed to understand how the size of a strap makes a substantial and material disruption.” 

Molly's protest has changed perceptions at her school, but the hashtag is part of a larger movement online as young people everywhere talk about how dress codes are used to police women's bodies as well as trans, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ youth:

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While there will always be people who defend "the rules" and yell at kids to prepare themselves for the "real world" via the double standards of dress codes, it looks like this next generation is fully aware of how these double standards are setting up a pattern of inequality that they don't want to live with. And they don't have to! 

Humans make rules and we can change them too, especially if we get involved on a local level, exactly as Molly and her friends did in their local lunchroom. 


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