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Students at Prestigious Boston School Claim Dress Code Perpetuates Rape Culture

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 8:08 pm, October 24, 2016

Administrators at prestigious Boston Latin School have been embroiled in a dispute with female students over rape culture.

And the whole thing was triggered by the school’s decision to actually enforce its longstanding dress code.

The code is fairly conventional as schools go: It bans gang-related colors and symbols, sexually explicit logos, hemlines higher than four inches above the knee, and shirt-shoulder straps narrower than the width of three fingers. It also prohibits leggings worn as pants (as opposed to under a skirt or dress).

The female students, in middle and high school, didn’t react well to the announcement. In a Change.org petition, they said it sends the message that “we still live in a patriarchal society where men can decide whether a female’s clothing is appropriate or inappropriate.”

The petition also claimed the dress code creates “a sense of shame towards girls bodies” and reinforces the notion that “yes, it is our fault when girls get raped because they should have covered up and avoided the situation by dressing in a way that does not attract another person.”

Today, in the face of the petition, administrators retreated on part of the policy.  In an emailed statement to Heat Street, the school district office said Boston Latin School administrators met with students today and decided that leggings worn as pants will no longer be off-limits unless they are “sheer or see-through.”

The rest of the dress code will stay in place and take effect on Nov. 1.

This isn’t the first time students at Boston Latin School have used the Internet to push through changes. In January, two students posted a YouTube video, asking their classmates to discuss racial incidents that had occurred to them at school under the hashtag #BlackatBLS.

The students’ activism ultimately led to a federal probe that found widespread racial discrimination and harassment at Boston Latin School. Both the headmaster and another top school official ultimately resigned amid claims that the school hadn’t appropriately disciplined white students who used racial slurs.

Boston Latin is one of the oldest public exam schools in the United States, widely considered one of the best high schools in the nation.

— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

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