(Washington, D.C., September 11, 2018) – This morning, the American Humanist Association (AHA) sent a letter to officials at Weber School District and Valley Elementary School, in Ogden, Utah, demanding the repeal of a discriminatory dress code policy recently enforced against an eight-year-old student. The young female student was reprimanded for wearing a shirt that exposed the balls of her shoulders and was forced to wear a jacket for the remainder of the day or be sent to the principal’s office with a call home to her parents.
Embarrassed and confused, the student complied with her school’s demands. After learning of the incident, the parent reached out to the AHA for legal assistance.
The dress code provision applied to the young female student “is based on generalizations about boys’ inability to control their sexual impulses, reinforcing the harmful message to female students that they are at fault for experiencing sexual harassment based on certain clothing choices,” wrote Monica Miller, senior counsel for the American Humanist Association. Discriminatory dress code provisions also deprive female students of equal access to education, as they’re forced to miss valuable class time to find a jacket or sit in an administrative office.
The American Humanist Association’s letter warned the district that the dress code provision also flouts the constitutional mandate of church-state separation. “We would also be naïve to overlook the strong influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the district’s dress code policies. We are aware of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ dress code for youth in a pamphlet called ‘For the Strength of Youth,’ the obvious source for the Weber High dress code provision,” Miller wrote. The pamphlet states: “Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back.” Indisputably similar language is prominent in the school district’s dress code provisions.
The American Humanist Association is asking the school district to provide written assurances that: (1) all dress code policies will be considered and adopted based on gender neutral criteria and free from any religious influence; (2) the School District will repeal any school dress code provision stating that “sleeves must cover the ball of the shoulder” (or language to that effect); (3) tank tops and similar garments will be permitted; and (4) parents of elementary or junior high school students will be notified of any alleged dress code violation before any action is taken by school officials.
Ensuring equal access to high quality education, eliminating undue influence of the church on secular, public institutions, and preventing gender-based discriminatory policies remain high priorities of the American Humanist Association, and the AHA will continue to fight for all those who are victimized by these policies. See this page to contact our legal team and report a violation.
The student, pictured here, in the shirt in question.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans, including over 350 members in Utah. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
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