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ACLU sends Kenosha School District letter over dress code policy

Claims student harrassed over clothes
Posted at 9:20 PM, Sep 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 14:28:28-04

KENOSHA -- A student at a Kenosha High School says she was harassed for what she wore in gym class, even after the district changed its dress code policy to allow tank tops and yoga pants.

The ACLU of Wisconsin sent a letter to the district Monday after learning about this latest incident. The letter contained suggestions and best practices for the district to implement a change in the dress code policy that the school board approved in March.

The old policy forbade students from wearing yoga pants, leggings and tank tops. The new policy allows both yoga pants and leggings, and tank tops can be worn if the straps are at least one inch thick, and no undergarments show.

A group of senior girls at Indian Trail High School were instrumental in getting the school board to change the dress code policy, after multiple female students reported harassment and discrimination over certain clothing items, but their male counterparts were not receiving the same treatment. 

The ACLU says it's now concerned that some staff are still enforcing the old rules.

"We’d like to see something change in the written policies," said Asma Kadri Keeler, an attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin. "A pledge to change a policy without an actual commitment is meaningless."

She says they learned that a student in July experienced discriminatory treatment at one of the high schools for what she wore in gym class.

"[She was] called out in front of her classmates, shamed and embarrassed about wearing a tank top and shorts in a summer gym class," said Kadri Keeler.

She says under the old policy, female students were missing full days of class because of their clothing and the policy came close to violating their constitutional right of equal protection.

"You’re teaching young girls that their body is something to be ashamed of," said Kadri Keeler. "It’s something that 'if you don’t take care, things that happen to your body are your fault.'"

TODAY'S TMJ4 did reach out to the Kenosha School District for a response Monday. The School District responded Tuesday morning with this statement:

"The Kenosha Unified School District takes seriously its obligation to provide students with the opportunity to participate in an educational environment free from discrimination and harassment. We have taken reasonable steps in order to ensure that the student dress code policy is fair on its face and in its enforcement. In spring 2018, the policy was reviewed and approved for rollout to students and staff at the start of the 2018-19 school year and has been going very well since the opening of school on Sept. 4.  We look forward to a successful school year for students, staff and the community."

-- Tanya Ruder
Chief Communications Officer

The School District also sent TODAY'S TMJ4 a copy of the flier containing 2018-19 policy updates that were shared via email and shared on social media since early August. You can view that flier, here.