It all started with a blue romper.
California middle-schooler Demetra Alarcon got pulled out of class a couple of weeks ago when a teacher decided the 13-year-old’s romper was too short.
Her dad, Tony Alarcon, brought her a change of clothing that “included a tank top with spaghetti straps and shorts,” he told CBS San Francisco.
But those shorts weren’t long enough to meet the school’s dress code, either.
Then, later, Demetra got caught with her bra strap showing at school.
“When I got dress coded one time last week, they said my bra strap was showing,” Demetra told the San Jose Mercury News. “Lord forbid I might be wearing a bra.”
Her father has come to her defense and is campaigning to change the school’s dress code because, for one thing, it unfairly targets female students because most of the rules concern girls’ clothing, he charges.
He and his wife also want to be the ones who decide what their daughter wears to school.
“I was told by an administrator that the girls’ clothes are a distraction to the boys. That shouldn’t be a concern,” Alarcon told the newspaper.
He did, however, say his daughter won’t be wearing the blue romper to school again because it didn’t pass his own rule of covering his daughter’s “front and rear” when she sits or touches her toes.
“We have to have dress codes that are fair and reasonable and that don’t cause them emotional issues; cause them to question their bodies or feel like they’re sex symbols at 13 years old,” Alarcon told CBS. “Because they’re not. They’re just kids.”
Demetra, who attends Raymond J. Fisher Middle School in Los Gatos, Calif., said she feels “picked on” for wearing what other girls wear to school.
“Demetra isn’t alone. Just sit in Fisher’s parking lot and you’ll see that,” Alarcon told the newspaper. “I’ve heard from multiple girls that they just want to be comfortable, but they feel like they’re being pushed into wearing leggings in 100-degree heat.”
The school’s dress code has specific rules about the length of shorts, skirts and dresses.
“Underwear and midriffs may not be visible,” it says. “Cut-off tops, halter tops, strapless tops, tank tops with spaghetti straps, pajama pants and short shorts/skirts/dresses (inseam less than 4 inches) may not be worn to school.”
Lisa Fraser, the school’s principal, said the school’s “Fashion Faux Pas” guidelines apply to both girls and boys. Among other no-nos: hats or hoods indoors, visible underwear, inappropriate words or logos, and those shorts with less-than-4-inch inseams.
“There has always been a dress code,” Fraser told the newspaper. “These are standards for reasonable decorum. I do reserve the right to set guidelines for the school, but I want to lead with the pulse of the community and reflect the community’s core values.”
Alarcon thinks the dress code goes too far.
“The dress code should require clothes to cover body parts — nothing should be hanging out — I agree 100 percent,” he told the newspaper. “But wearing spaghetti straps and tank tops does not make them disrespectful or inappropriate.”
He aired his concerns on the website NextDoor.com, where he received dozens of messages of support, CBS reported.
“Your post has reminded me of some fairly serious body image issues of my own that have stemmed from our cultural shaming and sexualizing of girls’ bodies,” wrote one woman who responded to his post.
But comments on social media have been mixed as news of his crusade has spread.
“Her hair is longer than her dress. Dress codes happen for a reason,” wrote one Twitter user.
In a statement to CBS, Los Gatos Union School District Superintendent Diana G. Abbati said students are expected to wear clothes suitable for their activities.
School officials met Monday night to discuss the dress code and consider parents’ concerns.
School dress codes issues across the country have made headlines since the beginning of the new school year.
A Joplin, Mo., mom says a teacher called her 17-year-old daughter “busty” and “plus-sized” and kicked her out of class for wearing a blouse that “didn’t cover her cleavage properly.”
Melissa Barber said her daughter, Kelsey Anderson, was sent to the principal’s office by a female teacher after being “sexualized” in front of classmates.
“Bustier women need to wear clothing that covers their cleavage” and “plus-sized women need to dress accordingly,” the teacher said, according to Barber.
Barber is talking with a lawyer.
In August, a high school principal in Goose Creek, S.C., felt the heat after making a controversial fashion statement about girls who wear leggings.
Heather Taylor, principal of Stratford High School, reportedly told students that girls bigger than size 2 look fat in leggings.
After students and parents complained on social media, Taylor spoke with students and “shared from my heart that my intention was not to hurt or offend any of my students in any way.”