Dress Code Protest

A group of Urbana Middle School students wore homemade T-shirts Wednesday that read “I am more than a distraction” in protest of school enforcement of the county dress code. Shown, clockwise from top center, are Sophie Beers-Arthur, Allison Crittenden, Abby Carioti, Sophia Plaschke, Zoë Nelson and Sola Beers-Arthur.

On Wednesday morning, as a dozen Urbana Middle School eighth-graders prepared to enter school, most wore baggy yellow T-shirts that read in marker: “I am more than just a distraction.”

They were among students in two Frederick County Public Schools who claim their respective schools’ dress codes unfairly target girls and promote a culture of shaming them.

School district administration said the dress codes, which individual principals have wide latitude to determine in their respective schools, are in place to ensure a safe, nurturing learning environment, free of distractions.

Urbana Middle welcomed a new principal this year, Peter Daddone from Montgomery County Public Schools. Girls at the school, interviewed on Wednesday, said Daddone has taken an authoritarian approach with enforcing the dress code, making them wear ill-fitting yellow T-shirts to cover up dress code violations.

Dress code infractions have been turned into a verb by students and parents — students are “dress-coded” when they violate the policy.

Daddone directed all questions to the school district’s communications office. District spokesman Michael Doerrer said the yellow T-shirts are not a punishment, and merely a way for each student to return to class until a parent can bring an appropriate outfit to school.

“It’s not a scarlet letter,” Doerrer said.

Students at Urbana Middle, however, disagree. They said Wednesday that being made to wear the yellow shirts clashes with the school’s policy, which states students “who are in violation will be addressed privately by an administrator or staff member.”

They also object to parts of the dress code, specifically that Urbana Middle does not allow spaghetti straps — thin straps that fall across the shoulder — or shorts or miniskirts with less than a 4-inch inseam.

Girls “should be conscious” of shirts that reveal cleavage, the policy states.

Students started “rebelling” on Monday, in part because they felt humiliated by the yellow shirts, eighth-grader Abby Carioti said. That day, when students infringed on the dress code and were given the shirts, the entire cafeteria cheered when they walked back in.

“They’re telling us it’s our responsibility to not be distracting, when it should be their responsibility,” Carioti said of the administrators.

She said the school should not teach boys that it’s shameful for a girl to expose her shoulders.

More of Urbana Middle School’s dress code addresses girls, the students said in interviews.

Asked if the dress code unfairly targeted girls, Tom Saunders, the school district’s instructional director of middle schools, said male fashion has remained relatively unchanged over the years, such as T-shirts and shorts in the summer. Also, boys typically don’t need to deal with revealing undergarments, such as a bra, he said.

Often, in middle school, students grow rapidly, Saunders said, so clothes that may have been appropriate early on in middle school no longer fit. He encouraged parents with problems with the dress code to contact their principal.

“I think the basis of the policy is keeping a safe, nurturing learning environment,” Saunders said.

High school instructional director Kathleen Schlappal said female fashions are more varied, leading to more rules surrounding girls in dress codes.

The Frederick County Board of Education enforces minimum standards of a dress code — students can’t wear clothing that’s “unduly revealing” — but its policy has not been updated since 2004.

In an interview, school board President Brad Young said he was “shocked” by some of the fashions that both students and teachers wear in schools. He was not aware of complaints regarding dress code, but said board members would re-examine the policy if necessary.

Parent Tina Allgaier said she agrees with dress code enforcement and a degree of modesty. Her daughter attends Urbana Middle. She also had three boys pass through the school.

“I think the shirt is fine, so instead of sending them home, they wear the shirt,” she said.

Several other people who agree with Allgaier sent emails to The Frederick News-Post on Wednesday.

Principals can write and enforce specific dress codes at school, depending on their school community. Doerrer said the district trusts them to do that.

At Linganore High School, senior Rachel Zuniga knew she wanted to petition the dress code. She had never been involved much in school, but said this was important to her because she felt the dress code promoted “rape culture.”

She’s garnered about 500 signatures on her paper-and-pencil petition so far against the Linganore dress code. A Twitter handle “@LinganoreGirls,” separate from her petition, was created after it began to circulate. The person behind that account claimed to want to work against misogyny and body shaming in the school.

Zuniga questioned why girls were asked to cover a majority of their legs, backside and shoulders, and said the administration told her it was a distraction. Students don’t care, though, Zuniga said. Administrators do.

Linganore Principal Nancy Doll did not respond to a phone request and an emailed request for comment.

“They’re teaching guys that it is OK for their wrongdoings against females because of our actions,” Zuniga said in an interview. “We wore this, so it’s our fault for their misbehavior.”

Zuniga said what she wore didn’t matter the night that she was sexually assaulted by two men. She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a long coat.

The News-Post does not generally name the alleged victims of sexual assault, but Zuniga requested that her story and name be public because she’s passionate about the issue of “rape culture.”

“It wasn’t my clothes. It wasn’t my fault whatsoever,” Zuniga said. “So with the dress code, it’s not our fault if boys misbehave.”

Maile Beers-Arthur, whose twin daughters were pulled aside by an Urbana Middle school to be lectured about the dress code, said she was pleased the principal there had inspired such a movement among the students. Her daughters are learning about peaceful protests and their free speech rights, she said.

“On a micro level, this points to what’s going on a macro level, which is blame the woman,” Beers-Arthur said.

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

(68) comments

Zack Smith

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Send your kids to Catholic Prep and they will look sharp in their khakis and their polos!

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What a stupid comment seven. You have no idea what they are protesting - you just belittle them. And are you really saying that boys are getting "naughty ideas" because of the way someone is dressed? That they can't control themselves? Have boys really grown this stupid?


The issue, as the article described, has clearly made some noise around the states. As for me, I side with Beers-Arthur, and I think that plenty of psychologists, scientist and essay writers would be in agreement with the point made. When dealing with misbehavior and violating the dress code, one should always remember to state realistic boundaries and address the issue privately with the accused person. The only way to provide a healthy environment and relationship between students of separate sexes is to listen to their needs and respond to them in a way that is comforting and suitable for all.


That makes a lot more sense than publicly shaming them with a yellow shirt. Not even a black shirt or a gray shirt - but a yellow shirt. I'm surprised it doesn't have a scarlett letter on it.


The issue, as the article described, has clearly made some noise around the states. As for me, I side with Beers-Arthur, and I think that plenty of psychologists, scientist and essay writers would be in agreement with the point made. When dealing with misbehavior and violating the dress code, one should always remember to state realistic boundaries and address the issue privately with the accused person. The only way to provide a healthy environment and relationship between students of separate sexes is to listen to their needs and respond to them in a way that is comforting and suitable for all.


i applaud the principal with his actions of making the girls wear the yellow tops.the students and the teachers do not need to wear revealing clothing to school or work.


You applaud publicly humiliating a young girl. Good for you. I think you are just as wrong as the school.


When living in Iowa nothing was said about guys wearing Hooters t-shirts at a Des Moines high school. A group of girls fought back by making their own shirt with Cocks and big rooster on it. That took care of that problem..


So the US Flag can be banned from schools and school events. But we can't ban or require certain types of clothing for similar reasons. Think about it.


It appears you didn't read the article in which it is explained that schools do ban certain types of clothing.


Yeah I did read the article. I guess you didn't understand what I was getting at.


FCPS has not banned the US flag. They should be flying in every classroom, cafeteria, and auditorium. Where specifically are you talking about? I am really curious.


I was sent home from high school my senior year for wearing shorts. They weren't short shorts. Almost came to my knees. We could wear skirts, dresses, slacks, capris but not shorts. Boys weren't allowed to wear shorts either and I'm guessing they would have been sent home had they worn dresses, skirts, and maybe even capris.

The dress code seemed silly.


You just think that was silly, Gladys. When I was in high school girls did not have sports with other schools and during gym wore bloomers. Now that was silly!


also, girls could only dribble two or three times before passing the basketball!


In 7th grade I was kept in a conference room all day for having the audacity to wear a pair of pants. Those pants were probably better than anything else I owned but girls were not allowed to wear pants back then. Anyone see any irony in that!


Is there a dress code for teachers?


I assume it is the same for teachers - maybe stricter.


When I first began teaching in the fall of 1970, the principal of the school forbade the women teachers to wear dress slacks. We all had to wear dresses.

Missing Chapter

I'm so torn on this issue. I'm fine with asking for some modesty. But when I see this quote in the article, "“I think the basis of the policy is keeping a safe, nurturing learning environment,” Saunders said." I have to ask ... when did straps become unsafe? Whoops! Be careful, you might trip on your strap! Whoops, your wedgie might actually split you in two. I'm not a fan of the short shorts. I'm not a fan of seeing bras and boobies (all but the nipples) hanging out. But in the end, it's the fact that a top administrator has said that a woman's clothing makes her unsafe, that bothers me.

I was shocked with the amount of skin showing on the Women’s USA Beach Volleyball team uniforms vs the men's team. Was it necessary, to keep the clothing from getting in the way, in one case but not the other? Did the Olympic Judges make them put on yellow shirts so they could keep the entire world audience from attacking them? Were they safe?

Instead, we need to teach our kids that they are valuable beyond their bodies and teach respect for personal space. We need to reinforce that if a piece of clothing makes you a victim, then there has to be an aggressor. The aggressor needs to be addressed. We are responsible to teach our boys, not just fear of consequences in case they’re caught, but rather an innate, intrinsic, inherent respect for all people.

Schools are a microcosm of our society. Unfortunately, every single person in jail, has been in school. A police officer once told my mother, a teacher, "You get them first, then we get them". Our daughters and sons walk among those who will be leaders and aggressors, and sometimes both. As mothers of those daughters, we have to educate our girls that they may be victimized and they need to be prepared. Making adult decisions brings about adult consequences. Taking a stand is important. Being prepared for a battle is just as important. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

BTW – I was a modestly dressed and reserved teenager. It didn’t stop boys from random acts of unwelcomed groping, and inappropriate comments. They faced immediate consequences. Talk with your girls. Be honest. Equip them.


How truly refreshing it is to see student activism alive and well (once again) !! Mazel tov Urbana students !! Let's hear from other Frederick Co., and neighboring counties too !!


Teens today are covering their bodies with skin art. Clothing is a distraction. Taking beauty is only skin deep to a whole new meaning.


College and career ready - in the workplace, dress codes exist as has been pointed out by other commenters. Middle school is not too early to learn to comply. I hope the school administrators continue to enforce reasonable dress codes. For teenage girls, it can be very difficult to find shorts that meet dress codes because of the current styles, but we do our best to comply. On the issue of tops, there are lots out there that will not meet the dress code, but there are also lots that do.


Unfortunately, probably a lot of helicopter parenting going on in Urbana - and the ever-present entitlement mentality I am sure. Rules are rules. No spaghetti straps means no spaghetti straps. This is so simple to comprehend it is beyond amazement how anyone, whether a parent or a child, can be confused here.

One day, many little princes and princesses will grow up and enter the real world. The real world has rules and regulations and codes and guidelines. Children who challenge the spaghetti strap rules in middle school will, 25 years from now, still be living with mommy and daddy at home and still complaining about utter nonsense.

I was always taught to pick my battles. I am teaching my two daughters this as well. This is one battle that, even as a 12 year old in my youth, common sense would have told me I was going to lose, so I would have moved on. But that was back in the 1980s. My how things have changed.


I am appalled at the crap being sold in department and clothing stores for young girls to wear to school.


Your generalizations of parenting and the real world infuriate me.
The students who take on 'their' battle, weather you agree or disagree with it, are the students who are going to learn how to initiate change. They are the ones who have energy and eagerness to fight. Those are not the kind to stay in the comfortable space of their parents arms. The 'sheep' that accept rules that they do not agree with are the ones who will not have the fulfilling independent lives. Many rules are made to accommodate the ones who have the power to make them. Those rules should be challenged. This is a learning experience for those who rise to the challenge. Maybe they will lose, as your very common sense tells you. But, they will take away from that the knowledge that they tried, and have the experience to learn to take a different approach next time. I wish there were more people, young and old, that fight for their rights.
This challenge of a rule change should result in a compromise. And finding middle ground is how conflicts are resolved.

Also, the 80's clothing was awful. I am glad things have changed in that regard.



“Every time a girl is pulled out of class for a dress code violation or told to not wear a perfectly benign article of clothing, what she's really being told is that eliminating supposed distractions for boys is more important than her self-esteem, her self-expression and her own right to a safe and interruption-free learning environment. If there's really an issue, schools should give Mom and Dad a call. Otherwise, stop shaming and blaming girls for the simple act of wearing clothes while female.”


Go to goodwill and buy jeans with holes in them and a school girl would be embarrassed. Buy her a $100 pair of jeans with designer holes and she blends right in. Goodwill doesn't sell holy clothes, but when it comes to equal rights in the fashion world, females rule.


Why not just require all of the girls to wear burka's at school, that way none of the male students, or male faculty for that matter, will have lewd thoughts towards the girls. One step closer to Sharia law, which these progressive educators apparently find to be acceptable. Is that how they do things in the Peoples Republic of Montgomery County?


Yah, really, that's all you can think about - either short shorts and all the cleavage you can show or burkhas. You really see nothing in between.

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Actually you missed the point. It isn't just "if you break the dress code then pay the price" - it is "if you break the dress code" the school will publicly shame you. Oh, and the "rules" are at the discretion of the principal. Not acceptable.


If parents don't set limit for there kids, I guess someone else does. Unfortunately another case of our educator addressing an issue which distracts from their primary function.


Your choice of clothing and your demeanor are your billboard to the world and the world judges you by what you project. Put a guy in a three-piece suit and he's judged one way. Dress the same guy like a homeless person and he's judged another way. Let your daughter dress like a tramp and guess how she will be judged.

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Exactly Bosco. And nobody judges people and clothing more than middle schoolers.


This is an example of why the world has become what it is today. Nobody wants to follow the rules and think they can do as they please without consequences. There are dress codes in the work environment and this prepares the children for their future. I would love to wear what I want to work everyday but out of respect for myself and my co workers I adhere to the dress policy. Kids should learn how to follow policy and rules because life is filled with them and nobody is exempt.


I was thinking "not a story for the rest of us" until I read a 4" inseam passes, less does not. Took me a minute to get up from the floor. Sorry. Give boys a break. Their brains are still under construction. But it explains all the zombies, huh


RULES! who cares about rules, this Is the "new" America, where no matter what rules may be in place they don't have to be followed at any time, and if you don't like them protect, harass those that make them and even embarrass those that make them to get them changed and further degrade the morality of this country. Shame on this school for singling out these poor, poor victims. Nonsense, we are a civilized society and school is not a fashion show, you are there to learn and o prepare to become an adult. Get over it, follow the rules and act like upstaging young adults and quit winning. I don't agree with yellow, it should at least be a school t-shirt, second offense for showing to much flesh maybe public stoning, wait that's sharia law.


Yet another issue in our schools that cause a distraction from learning. As a 32 year veteran of MCPS, one thing that became apparent to me is that teachers and administrators spend so much time dealing with issues that distract our kids from the purpose of being in school, that it is really ridiculous. A simple uniform like khaki pants or skirt and a shirt with a collar would eliminate any discussion about what is acceptable dress in school. It takes the decision out of what to wear to school for kids eliminates the kinds of distractions in school that the article discusses. Many jurisdictions have a simple uniform like this and once it becomes the norm, the issue of student choice is not as important as maintaining an academic environment where this distraction is simply not a problem that needs to be addressed.




I was thinking the same thing, might have made a comment if you hadn't already. Anything other than a "uniform" will cause some to complain. Yes, they will complain about uniforms too, but they are easier to judge by the school to ensure compliance.


A dress code is needed now. It looks like the students are telling the schools how to run things. The girls should look in a mirror and see how they are dressed.


Just the girls?


Much ado about nothing, on both sides. Males should not be given a pass to treat females poorly if they choose to dress in a stylish, or even a somewhat provocative manner. But females (and males) must learn that there is appropriate dress for different situations. Most of this must come from the parents, but like in many other aspects of child rearing, this is being left for the teachers and schools to deal with.

i heart frederick

Or no one to deal with at all. God forbid we give our kids boundaries and tell them no occasionally.


Follow the dress code and then you don't have to wear the yellow shirt. It really is simple. The purpose of going to school is to get an education; not a fashion show.


Yes wear the yellow shirt of shame (girls) - that must really build up their self esteem.


What was not clarified is that there is a dress code for boys as well. No sagging pants, no underwear visible, no muscle shirts that are lower than the arm pit area and no inappropriate saying/pictures on t-shirts. It is not about shaming girls or blaming them for others' reactions. It's about learning appropriate dress for specific places. As someone else said, are we going to allow bikinis to be worn? A dress code becomes more and more necessary as fashion has changed to more revealing styles. Girls try to come to school in outfits with boobs almost falling out and butt cheeks showing. I question why are parents buying these clothes for their children anyway? When all three of my children would leave for school, I made sure that they were dressed appropriately (boys and girl) and they knew I had eyes at school if they changed when they got there. I appreciate these young ladies exercising their right to protest, but let's find a cause that has real meaning. Hunger, AIDS, unfunded research for the zika virus. Pick one - any one and make a difference in the world. In a few years, you can hit the clubs and wear whatever skimpy outfit you want in a place where it is appropriate.


So what article of clothes - yellow of course - are the boys required to wear?


“They’re teaching guys that it is OK for their wrongdoings against females because of our actions,” Zuniga said in an interview. “We wore this, so it’s our fault for their misbehavior.”...She is correct...We women folk should be able to wear what we want when WE WANT TO. It is about time we stop catering to others people's "morals" or "modesty" standards. It is about time MEN learn that they have no rights over our bodies...NO MATTER WHAT. It is about time MEN learn to control themselves and keep THEMSELVES under control. It is not a woman's job to prevent rape, that is a man's job...

Why is it a women's job to control men? All men have tried to do since the beginning of time is control us women simply because they can't control themselves....how is that right? Why should allow our ourselves to be controlled with what we wear?

Rachel is correct the dress code does promote “rape culture.” It places the burden on women not to be raped by forcing them to dress a certain way, a certain way that really does nothing to stop rape except make the woman shoulder all the burden if she is raped. The firs thing people want to know is what was the women wearing, when the first question we should be asking is to the man, what gives you the right to take control of another person's body without their permission?

When what the schools but really the parents should be teaching their little darling sons, IS NOT TO RAPE, they should be teaching them to respect women and teach them that women's bodies are not your play things that you can play with whenever and however you feel like. That it is your responsibility as a man to keep your hands OFF another persons body.

“They’re teaching guys that it is OK for their wrongdoings against females because of our actions,” Zuniga said in an interview. “We wore this, so it’s our fault for their misbehavior.”....Without maybe realizing it the schools are sending that message to the boys....they are in fact creating future rapists.


This is NOT about males attacking females...this is about a uniform learning environment for both sexes! When is the last time you looked at these children, yes children...Middle School not even high school, and what they wear? School is not the place for hot pants, tube tops, etc. these are preteens who can't even get off of their smart phones when told! And then they cry bullying when they text a provocative picture on Facebook, Twitter or whatever and get negative feedback. These "children" care too much about opinion and "likes" from strangers than thinking for themselves. Wake up...this is not camp but school. Seems more like daycare lately. About time the parents start parenting and not trying to be their child's "friend". What you teach them now molds them for the rest of their life. And this is not about RAPE!!! I'm sorry the individual experienced a sexual assault. And if you say the schools are creating future rapists then maybe they are also creating future victims? Parent your children...they are YOUR responsibility!!!


They aren't "men"....yet.

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Unfortunately, yes.


Absolutely, the school should not use the yellow shirts. They should be replaced with random used clothes. It's hilarious that these girls don't realize we know they dress the way they do to get attention and that they love that the yellow shirts give them more attention.


Doesn't matter how a female student dresses. All male students have x-ray vision.


I guess we could teach our children to learn to deal with people who dress differently, whether that meant someone dressed very conservatively or someone wearing "skimpy" clothing. Perhaps we should be teaching them to look past the clothes and see the person instead?

I think that ultimately is what the girls are saying. They are not the sum of their outward


Exactly Green_freak


Why not a uniform dress code..


" individual principals have wide latitude to determine " Well that right there says it all. Your perception is different from someone else. Wear uniforms!


I agree, dress code should be established by the Board of Ed. Individual administrators setting policy at their school leads to administrators imposing their personal views on policy. What is OK at one school may not be OK at another school. What's fair about that?


For the love of god. Enough with these first world problems.




The fact that we can challenge our leaders is what makes us a "First World' country!


This is why a uniform policy is a good idea. No subjective decisions on what is or is not appropriate. Personally, most of us have to follow some reasonable dress code in the workplace. I know at my workplace people have been sent home for wearing jeans with strategically placed holes, clothes that reveal too much cleavage, etc. It does not harm a child's ego to realize that there are clothes appropriate for school/work and clothes which are appropriate for play. They wouldn't wear a pantsuit to lay on the beach, would they? Conversely, you don't wear a bathing suit to school/work.


Nowadays it seems that children wear and do whatever they like. And if they get negative feedback they complain about violating their rights! Wake up...you are minors...not adults. When I went to middle school and my parent was called on me I worried. Now the "parents" are proud of their children for standing up to oppression. This is school!! You wonder why education is going downhill because it is no longer a place of education but a social meeting hall. Texting in class, ignoring teachers. Like I said...more of a daycare then a place for learning. Seems the inmates are running the asylum.


While you're at it change the uniforms of the swim teams. They're too revealing. [scared]


If the FNP and these supposed victims (the young women) show ictures of how they were dressed before being identified as in violation. Also, let's distinguish a distinction between clothing appropriate for casual play and clothing aporopriate for a place of learning when you are not an independent adult but rather a child.

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