Ellis and Brown said the dress code issue isn't the thing that has them most upset. Both said that pulling the girls, and only the girls, out of class to give them instructions on lady etiquette smacked of "gender bias.
A recent meeting held with all the female students, from 7th grade through 12th grade, at Richland has sparked a controversy on social media, among the girls, and has some parents asking questions.
Richland Superintendent Doug Smith said in a written statement that the meeting was a "dress code clarification meeting to address questions that were coming up from our female students regarding the dress code policy."
Amira Brown, a student at Richland High School, and her mother, Miranda Ellis, say that dress code was not all the meeting was about.
Brown said the girls were instructed on "lady etiquette," with instructions on how they should sit and what they should and should not wear according to the dress code.
The meeting featured a PowerPoint presentation entitled "Lady Etiquette," which was provided to the Daily Guide and other media by the school district.
The Daily Guide showed the copy we were provided to Ellis who confirmed that the slides were the same slides they were shown.
"Our only intent with this meeting was to clarify the dress code in a positive manner and it is routine for our school to hold meetings with students to discuss rules and updates that impact them. I am happy to speak with parents who have any concerns about this meeting," Smith said in his statement concerning the meeting.
Ellis said she agreed with the dress code requirements, as they are spelled out in the student handbook, but said she felt like additions were made in this meeting without informing parents. She said she felt the "three finger" rule was "ridiculous."
According to Brown, the girls were told that shirts shouldn't measure more than three fingers below the collar bone.
"Who's fingers are going to measure that? Are they going to make her measure with her fingers?" Ellis asked during an interview with the Daily Guide.
Ellis and Brown said the dress code issue isn't the thing that has them most upset. Both said that pulling the girls, and only the girls, out of class to give them instructions on lady etiquette smacked of "gender bias."
Brown said the girls were given instructions that they should sit like "ladies," especially in male teachers' classrooms "so that they wouldn't be a distraction." Brown said they were told they should cross their legs at the knees or the ankles at their desks.
Ellis said the idea that her daughter was told she was a distraction had her "pretty angry, because it's not the child or even the female that is the distraction." She also said that sitting with your legs crossed isn't good for them.
"We're not in the 1950's and something like lady etiquette has no business being taught in the school," Ellis said.
"You're singling out the girls and making all the responsibility for inappropriate behavior theirs. Boys need to be taught that girls aren't a sex object. They're equal," Ellis said.
Brown said she wasn't the only girl upset by the meeting and the Daily Guide was sent several posts, photos, and messages via social media, allegedly from female students from Richland expressing anger over the issue.
Ellis and Brown were the only parent and daughter who agreed to speak on the record with the Daily Guide about this issue.
According to Brown and the social media messages the Daily Guide was sent, other girls at school took photos and posted memes of boys in violation of the dress code.
"Most of the girls were very upset by it. They didn't think it was fair. Boys don't really get dress coded either," Brown said.
Brown said there was a particular photo taken of a boy sitting with baggy basketball shorts and his legs up on a desk, where his underwear were clearly visible, but the boy was not reprimanded.
Ellis said she was also upset because the girls were taken out of class, away from instructional time to be given this meeting that she felt was gender biased and the "message was you're a sex object."
According to Brown, a pop-quiz was given in her English class the day of the meeting. The girls missed the first part of the class for the meeting. Brown said the boys were allowed to study for the quiz until the girls came back to class and then they all had to take the test.
Brown said she felt like this wasn't fair to her or the other girls.
When asked about how she felt about the meeting in general, Brown said, "I got upset. The way I dress doesn't mean I don't respect myself. I can wear shorts and still respect myself and others."
Ellis said her daughter has never gotten into trouble over dress code and doesn't allow her daughter to dress inappropriately.
"My child didn't violate it (the dress code), then she shouldn't have been pulled out. Taking every girls in the whole school to address what maybe a handful of students are doing isn't right," Ellis said.
"Telling me that my body is a distraction is just wrong because it's not, it's just a human body," Brown said.
When asked what she would like to see happen as a next step by the district, Ellis said, "I'd like an apology to the girls."