Why These Students Protested Their High School’s Dress Code Policy

#SkinOutSpeakOut

Photo: Courtesy of Avery Kim.

Stories of students standing up to their school’s antiquated—and, at times, problematic—rules have been popping up in the news a lot lately. Recently, a group of black girls in South Africa made headlines when they were allegedly told by their school that their “exotic” natural hair needs to be tamed. Stateside, a group of students from Brooklyn Tech teamed up for a protest of their own during the end of the school year to rebel against the school’s sexist and racist dress code policies.

Brooklyn Tech student Avery Kim produced a 14-minute short documentary, titled #SkinOutSpeakOut, capturing the rally that an estimated 750 students put together. A bulk of the short shows girls—and guys alike—expressing their frustration over rules that, they say, help to enforce the idea that the female body is distracting and inappropriate. “The dress code targets what women wear and suggests that removing the rules will make young women lose control and come to school naked. It's misogynist," one student states in the film. "Girls have two dials: It’s either you’re a nun or you’re a hoe,” another says to a rousing applause.

Kim tells us she’s shared similar experiences of being called out for quote-un-quote inappropriate clothing in the past, which is what motivated her to make the film. She wanted to help give a voice to the movement—or, at least, help amplify it. “Since the sixth grade, I have been unfairly dress coded myself, sometimes causing me to miss tests or lose class time just to be forced to wear a pair of school-provided dirty gym shorts that were shorter than the clean shorts I had on,” she says. “When girls are unfairly criticized and targeted by teachers, who they respect, or other authority figures, it can have a really demoralizing impact. Especially, when this is applied unevenly across races, body types, and genders.”

You can watch the short in its entirety below. As for whether or not any changes were made, Kim says she doesn’t think any rules were officially crossed off Brooklyn Tech’s list formally but that she received an outpouring of support from people around the country and even internationally. 

Her documentary is also going to be screened at the Awareness Film Festival in L.A. and Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the coming months. Her ultimate goal: to spread the message that dress coding is unfair but, most importantly, to inspire young people to speak out and stand up for themselves.