A group of boys at Buchanan High School in Clovis, California wore dresses to class this week in a show of protest against a dress code that's particularly discriminatory toward male students.
Several students interviewed by The Fresno Bee claim there are gender nonconforming students in the Clovis Unified district who aren't able to dress comfortably due to a strict dress code, which bans boys from wearing earrings or long hair, among other things.
"When today’s youths don’t have a way to express who they are, they may just become another statistic in suicide rates," said senior Patrick Smart said. "CUSD can’t stop people from expressing themselves."
Smart's classmate Emma Sledd chimed in, saying "Boys deserve to express their sexual orientation and gender identity through clothing, whether it’s the traditional boy look or a more feminine look. Clothing shouldn’t determine a person’s education."
The guerilla protest came after a "surprise vote" by Clovis Unified trustees last week that reinforced the decades-old dress code.
The Fresno Bee indicates the school board is bracing itself for a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties union, which has sued the district in the past over its unfair dress code, after a student petition urging the district to adopt a gender-neutral dress code received over 2,500 signatures.
Though the protest wasn't explicitly inspired by any transgender students who've been forced into uncomfortable gender roles, sophomore Sophia Brodish says that shouldn't matter either way. Change should happen simply because it's the right thing to do — students don't need a martyr to fight for what's right.
"We live in a city where the LGBTQA+ community is very minimal and unaccepted," she said. "By allowing the dress code to become gender neutral, we are starting to bridge the gap of acceptance and unacceptance."
"High school is difficult as it is, and it’s hard to accept yourself during this period. … How could a district that is trying to give kids an education not allow us to be who we are? How could they not see that we are fighting for something we believe in? They are putting down our freedom of speech."