Female student suspended after protesting dress code crackdown on bra straps

Some students have been making headlines by fighting for their right to go braless at school. But it seems that even those who do wear bras to class are facing their own dress code dramas.

Ontario high school students say they’re being punished for showing their bra straps, like this woman does. (Photo: Elke Van de Velde/Getty Images)
Ontario high school students say they’re being punished for showing their bra straps, like this woman does. (Photo: Elke Van de Velde/Getty Images)

As Canada’s CBC reports, a sophomore is calling out her high school’s dress code, which has reportedly been cracking down on visible bra straps. According to Mallory Johnston, who attends Essex District High School in Ontario, many of her female friends have been punished — including having to change shirts or being sent home — for flashing their bra straps.


The student handbook, available to read online, does not actually specify anything about bras in the dress code, though it does prohibit spaghetti straps and halter tops for girls and tank tops for boys. Exposed backs or midriffs and “short-shorts” are also banned; though, ironically, the school website is selling these thigh-skimming athletic shorts for women.

The language of the dress code does leave educators with some wiggle room, however.

“Students are expected to take pride in their appearance by dressing cleanly, neatly, and appropriately,” the handbook states. “In general, all clothing worn to school must be conducive to an academic environment.”

According to Johnston, female students are being singled out. On Tuesday the 15-year-old hung up posters with slogans like “Dress code perpetuates rape culture,” “Stop objectifying women,” and “If the people who raised me proudly let me out in what I’m wearing, why do you think you can tell me otherwise.”

There was also a call for girls to come to class in tank tops, shorts, and “whatever you feel comfortable in,” noting that female students should “not have to dress like nuns.”


But her protest didn’t last long. The teen says that school officials took down the posters she had plastered over campus, saying they “weren’t appropriate.” Johnston was also suspended for her efforts.

“I was more angry than upset,” she tells the CBC, “because I was simply standing up for something that I believe in, which we are taught to do in school, but then I got disciplined for it and I didn’t know why.”

She wasn’t the only one punished. Sophomore Gracelynn Wood — who identified herself on Twitter as Johnston’s best friend — was sent to detention after she refused to change into a shirt that didn’t expose her bra straps; she says she intentionally flouted the dress code as a form of protest.

“They are taking us out of our classes just because of a bra strap,” she says.

“I think it is degrading because [the administration] doesn’t point out the boys; it’s always about the girls.”

Principal Mike Hawkins insists that this is “not a male or female issue.” He says parents and students have yet to formally push for a dress code policy change.

But one certainly seems to be on the horizon. Johnston’s mother is planning to file a complaint with the school board about her daughter’s suspension. Students, meanwhile, continue to speak out — and not just at Johnston’s school.

A photo of a long-shared, unattributed quote about the scrutiny female students face in how they dress went viral after a conservative pundit responded that young women should “have more respect for themselves.” His comments prompted an outcry, though some expressed similar views.


Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
An 8th-grader is suing his school over its dress code ban on pro-gun shirts
Teen told to put Band-Aids on her nipples so she wouldn’t distract boys at school
Girl, 11, benched from basketball game for refusing to wear a dress

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