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Grossmont High students break the code

“It’s basically a war on girls”

Bickford - “It was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos.”
Bickford - “It was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos.”

On Sunday, September 12th, Grossmont High School sent an email to students and parents outlining changes to the school’s dress code. The email began, “In an effort to improve the atmosphere for learning in the Grossmont Union High School District, students will dress in a manner that reflects positively on themselves, their parents, and their school. Just as adults must conform to workplace standards, so must students.” It went on to list 20 clothing items that were now prohibited, including oversized and form-fitting clothing, shirts that cannot be tucked in or those that fall 4 inches below the waist, sleeveless shirts, garments that show cleavage and midriffs, micro-mini skirts, dresses, and short shorts.

Jonas Bickford, breaking dress code in solidarity with his female fellow students.

“It’s basically a war on girls,” says 17-year-old Jonas Bickford, a senior at Grossmont. When a call went out via social media that evening for all students to break dress code the following day by wearing tank tops or crop tops, Bickford decided to participate. “I wore a crop top, specifically because the dress code is super sexist. When I walked onto campus Monday, my goal was to get dress coded even if I got a referral or a Saturday school. I will wear tiny shirts for the remainder of the year if that’s what it takes.” Bickford laughs and adds, “I walked past a narc while I was wearing a crop top. He looked right at me and did not dress code me. I guarantee if a girl did that, she would be given a P.E. shirt to wear.”

If you ask most students what got the ball rolling towards the full-fledged protest that eventually erupted, they’ll tell you it was the change.org petition that Senior Mari Da Silva circulated on Sunday morning. “I read the email [from school] and talked it over with a few of my friends,” Da Silva explains. “We were all upset. I thought, ‘Why not do something about this?’” She posted a poll asking for input on the new dress code rules. The replies were unanimous in their opposition the school’s new changes. She then spent an hour writing up a petition. She outlined her reasons why Grossmont should do without a dress code and titled it, “End Grossmont High School Dress Code!” She then shared it on social media. “I didn’t really think about it. I had a bunch of homework, so I kind of forgot about it. I figured a few people would sign it.”

Within hours, her petition blew up. As of Friday of last week, it has over 2500 signatures. “Friends of friends started sharing it. People I don’t even know were messaging me and following me on [Instagram and Snapchat]. They were putting the petition in their account bios. I started seeing it everywhere. I didn’t really expect that.” Despite authoring the petition, Da Silva insists her intention was not to have students break dress code or protest. That part happened organically. “I think the petition inspired other people [to take action]. [Other girls] posted about breaking dress code on Monday. It kind of went viral on Instagram. Everyone knew about it. It sounded like a peaceful protest. I was into that. I thought it would be great.”

Jones - “Some of the people out there were protesting because they really wanted to make a change, but most just didn’t want to go back to class."

Sixteen-year-old Grossmont student Amelia Jones (not her real name) says that even before Sunday’s email went out, students were upset about the dress code. A handwritten petition had already been circulated in an attempt to lessen the dress code’s strict policies, but instead, the school’s administration added new restrictions. Says Braun, “They were even making announcements on the loudspeaker about twice a week, reminding us of what was and wasn’t acceptable to wear. People were a little bit upset about that. One of the kids in [the student body government], who reads those announcements, came to school in a tank top on Monday and was protesting.”

When she saw the messages Sunday night about breaking dress code, Jones was all in. But, she adds, “Some people, even those protesting, don’t really get the message. They’re saying, ‘I just want to wear pajamas to school.’ ‘I want to wear a tank top because it’s hot.’ That’s great, but that’s not really the message behind all of this. It’s not just about the dress code; it’s what the dress code stands for, which is the sexualization of kids’ bodies. It is saying that our bodies are distracting, and we need to cover them up so that the boys and men are comfortable.”

On Monday the 13th, students showed up in a sea of tank tops, crop tops and homemade t-shirts and dresses with feminist slogans. Boys wore skirts; some of them even went topless. “I’d say about 75% of the student body participated,” Bickford estimates. And Da Silva adds, “A rumor went around on social media that we were going to do a walk out during 5th period. During lunch, a girl decided to rally people and began chanting things like, ‘Dress Code Reform!’ and ‘My body is not a distraction!’ It all started very peacefully. It was very controlled. I was there initially with a small group, but then it stated getting violent. I left and went back to class.”

That’s when things got crazy. Jonas Bickford was in the middle of it. “Everyone was running around. We decided to start marching. That’s when kids were chanting things like, ‘Screw the dress code!’ Campus security tried ending it quickly, but no one was listening. It got worse from there. That’s when the actual march started all throughout the campus. It was still pretty calm, minus the yelling. I mean it was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos. Four kids were detained by police. Apples were being thrown at security guard’s heads, Gatorade bottles thrown at the dean’s head, and cops getting hit with flying pizzas. Someone threw a water bottle at me. I don’t know if it was intentional, or because I was wearing a crop top. Either way, it felt good, because it was hot.”

Back in class, Da Silva watched the scene unfold from livestreams that other students posted on social media. “It was really disheartening to see,” he says. “That is not the way to bring change, especially in an educational environment. When we are just a bunch of kids screaming, people aren’t going to take us seriously. The violence, I am certain, did not come from anyone who believed in the cause. That came from the adrenaline. They started chanting things that were completely irrelevant to the dress code. It was a bunch of opportunists going in and taking advantage of this thing that we started.”

Meanwhile, Jones watched the marchers from her second story classroom. “I went to the protest, but only briefly. I realized it was crazy. People were jumping off things and having the crowd catch them. It was kind of a joke. I mean, some of the people out there were protesting because they really wanted to make a change, but most just didn’t want to go back to class. From my classroom, I could see guys ripping off their shirts and swinging them around over their heads. Girls were shouting, ‘Our bodies do not distract you.’ I have mixed feelings. I am happy that we started something. I just wished it had been planned better. If we had taken a week to really think about it, organize it, and if we had focused more on what we were protesting instead of making last minute decisions, it wouldn’t have just been a bunch of people who just wanted to skip school.”

It’s a pity, because as Bickford argues, there are serious concerns here. “I would love to have protests on bigger world issues, but I don’t see that happening. Our school is extremely diverse. I don’t think it would go over well. The dress code hit close to home; it affects all of us. That’s why so many people got involved. What set me off was the instruction that we can’t wear loose or tight-fitting clothing. What does that leave us with? From a mental health perspective, which should be considered and taken seriously in school, loose fitting clothing is a comfort to so many kids, especially those who struggle with body dysmorphia.”

Despite the chaos, De Silvia still hopes that this week’s protest brings change. “I just want to do the right thing. I want to do the best I can to not leave it up to some other kid after I graduate to fix this issue. I have a friend in student government. She is planning on helping me and few others address the school board at an upcoming meeting. I know that Grossmont Union is having their own meetings regarding the dress code. I hear they are already reworking it. We will see what happens.”

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Bickford - “It was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos.”
Bickford - “It was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos.”

On Sunday, September 12th, Grossmont High School sent an email to students and parents outlining changes to the school’s dress code. The email began, “In an effort to improve the atmosphere for learning in the Grossmont Union High School District, students will dress in a manner that reflects positively on themselves, their parents, and their school. Just as adults must conform to workplace standards, so must students.” It went on to list 20 clothing items that were now prohibited, including oversized and form-fitting clothing, shirts that cannot be tucked in or those that fall 4 inches below the waist, sleeveless shirts, garments that show cleavage and midriffs, micro-mini skirts, dresses, and short shorts.

Jonas Bickford, breaking dress code in solidarity with his female fellow students.

“It’s basically a war on girls,” says 17-year-old Jonas Bickford, a senior at Grossmont. When a call went out via social media that evening for all students to break dress code the following day by wearing tank tops or crop tops, Bickford decided to participate. “I wore a crop top, specifically because the dress code is super sexist. When I walked onto campus Monday, my goal was to get dress coded even if I got a referral or a Saturday school. I will wear tiny shirts for the remainder of the year if that’s what it takes.” Bickford laughs and adds, “I walked past a narc while I was wearing a crop top. He looked right at me and did not dress code me. I guarantee if a girl did that, she would be given a P.E. shirt to wear.”

If you ask most students what got the ball rolling towards the full-fledged protest that eventually erupted, they’ll tell you it was the change.org petition that Senior Mari Da Silva circulated on Sunday morning. “I read the email [from school] and talked it over with a few of my friends,” Da Silva explains. “We were all upset. I thought, ‘Why not do something about this?’” She posted a poll asking for input on the new dress code rules. The replies were unanimous in their opposition the school’s new changes. She then spent an hour writing up a petition. She outlined her reasons why Grossmont should do without a dress code and titled it, “End Grossmont High School Dress Code!” She then shared it on social media. “I didn’t really think about it. I had a bunch of homework, so I kind of forgot about it. I figured a few people would sign it.”

Within hours, her petition blew up. As of Friday of last week, it has over 2500 signatures. “Friends of friends started sharing it. People I don’t even know were messaging me and following me on [Instagram and Snapchat]. They were putting the petition in their account bios. I started seeing it everywhere. I didn’t really expect that.” Despite authoring the petition, Da Silva insists her intention was not to have students break dress code or protest. That part happened organically. “I think the petition inspired other people [to take action]. [Other girls] posted about breaking dress code on Monday. It kind of went viral on Instagram. Everyone knew about it. It sounded like a peaceful protest. I was into that. I thought it would be great.”

Jones - “Some of the people out there were protesting because they really wanted to make a change, but most just didn’t want to go back to class."

Sixteen-year-old Grossmont student Amelia Jones (not her real name) says that even before Sunday’s email went out, students were upset about the dress code. A handwritten petition had already been circulated in an attempt to lessen the dress code’s strict policies, but instead, the school’s administration added new restrictions. Says Braun, “They were even making announcements on the loudspeaker about twice a week, reminding us of what was and wasn’t acceptable to wear. People were a little bit upset about that. One of the kids in [the student body government], who reads those announcements, came to school in a tank top on Monday and was protesting.”

When she saw the messages Sunday night about breaking dress code, Jones was all in. But, she adds, “Some people, even those protesting, don’t really get the message. They’re saying, ‘I just want to wear pajamas to school.’ ‘I want to wear a tank top because it’s hot.’ That’s great, but that’s not really the message behind all of this. It’s not just about the dress code; it’s what the dress code stands for, which is the sexualization of kids’ bodies. It is saying that our bodies are distracting, and we need to cover them up so that the boys and men are comfortable.”

On Monday the 13th, students showed up in a sea of tank tops, crop tops and homemade t-shirts and dresses with feminist slogans. Boys wore skirts; some of them even went topless. “I’d say about 75% of the student body participated,” Bickford estimates. And Da Silva adds, “A rumor went around on social media that we were going to do a walk out during 5th period. During lunch, a girl decided to rally people and began chanting things like, ‘Dress Code Reform!’ and ‘My body is not a distraction!’ It all started very peacefully. It was very controlled. I was there initially with a small group, but then it stated getting violent. I left and went back to class.”

That’s when things got crazy. Jonas Bickford was in the middle of it. “Everyone was running around. We decided to start marching. That’s when kids were chanting things like, ‘Screw the dress code!’ Campus security tried ending it quickly, but no one was listening. It got worse from there. That’s when the actual march started all throughout the campus. It was still pretty calm, minus the yelling. I mean it was a huge mob, probably about 1500 kids. It was just pure chaos. Four kids were detained by police. Apples were being thrown at security guard’s heads, Gatorade bottles thrown at the dean’s head, and cops getting hit with flying pizzas. Someone threw a water bottle at me. I don’t know if it was intentional, or because I was wearing a crop top. Either way, it felt good, because it was hot.”

Back in class, Da Silva watched the scene unfold from livestreams that other students posted on social media. “It was really disheartening to see,” he says. “That is not the way to bring change, especially in an educational environment. When we are just a bunch of kids screaming, people aren’t going to take us seriously. The violence, I am certain, did not come from anyone who believed in the cause. That came from the adrenaline. They started chanting things that were completely irrelevant to the dress code. It was a bunch of opportunists going in and taking advantage of this thing that we started.”

Meanwhile, Jones watched the marchers from her second story classroom. “I went to the protest, but only briefly. I realized it was crazy. People were jumping off things and having the crowd catch them. It was kind of a joke. I mean, some of the people out there were protesting because they really wanted to make a change, but most just didn’t want to go back to class. From my classroom, I could see guys ripping off their shirts and swinging them around over their heads. Girls were shouting, ‘Our bodies do not distract you.’ I have mixed feelings. I am happy that we started something. I just wished it had been planned better. If we had taken a week to really think about it, organize it, and if we had focused more on what we were protesting instead of making last minute decisions, it wouldn’t have just been a bunch of people who just wanted to skip school.”

It’s a pity, because as Bickford argues, there are serious concerns here. “I would love to have protests on bigger world issues, but I don’t see that happening. Our school is extremely diverse. I don’t think it would go over well. The dress code hit close to home; it affects all of us. That’s why so many people got involved. What set me off was the instruction that we can’t wear loose or tight-fitting clothing. What does that leave us with? From a mental health perspective, which should be considered and taken seriously in school, loose fitting clothing is a comfort to so many kids, especially those who struggle with body dysmorphia.”

Despite the chaos, De Silvia still hopes that this week’s protest brings change. “I just want to do the right thing. I want to do the best I can to not leave it up to some other kid after I graduate to fix this issue. I have a friend in student government. She is planning on helping me and few others address the school board at an upcoming meeting. I know that Grossmont Union is having their own meetings regarding the dress code. I hear they are already reworking it. We will see what happens.”

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