Teen’s Tank Top and Short Shorts Got Dress-Coded — So She Staged a Protest

Maggie Parker
Photo: @s0ph8/Instagram

Students in Canada are fighting for their right to wear what they want — by doing exactly that. After Sophie Harris, a student in Nelson, British Columbia, was “dress-coded” for an outfit she said complied with her school’s rules, she organized a demonstration. On Tuesday, the 14-year-old and her friends showed up at Trafalgar Middle School in crop tops and short shorts to protest what they believed were unequal fashion regulations.


Before the protest, Harris explained the incident on Instagram that pushed her to organize a rally. “Today, I got dress coded before school had even started,” Harris began her caption. “I was told, that my entire outfit was inappropriate. I was told, (this is a direct quote) ‘we have 11 and 12 year old boys at this school. We can’t have you dressed like that.’ Well, guess what trafalgar. That’s not cool. My outfit complied with the written code,” she said referencing the gray tank top tucked into denim shorts she was wearing in the accompanying photo. “My shirt covered my upper body, and was not see through. The neck line was high enough that it didn’t show cleavage. And it didn’t even show my stomach. My shorts, were the appropriate length. I checked before I left the house this morning. If I reached down, my fingertips could touch the hemline,” she explained regarding the hemline test.

She pointed out that she’s been dress-coded before, and the reason sounds familiar: “Every time I’ve been dress coded it’s been because it’s ‘distracting to young boys’ which is frankly misogynistic, because it’s not my problem.” She continued, “Teachers can’t expect me to wear a onesie to school in 30 degree weather. It’s summer, deal with it,” she said.

Her major issues are with the inconsistencies in the dress code. “[T]he dress code isn’t equal,” she wrote. “If you scroll through all the pictures you’ll see outfits that clearly violate the written dress code, and haven’t been told off,” she said referencing the rest of the photos in this post of her classmates is more revealing outfits.

One of Sophie’s classmates. (Photo: @s0ph8/Instagram)

“Furthermore, you’ll see guys at our school wearing their pants around there knees, and not getting dress coded. The Trafalgar website says that it’s equal for boys and girls, but clearly it’s not because I’ve seen boys without shirts on, and with their pants about to fall off.” She even called the school out for being sexist and picking favorites. “It’s been agreed upon by lots of people at our school that the dress code is sexist, and unfair. Who gets in trouble is based upon the preferred students. Out of all the outfits people wear every day only a handful get dress coded when way more than that should. I’m preaching for equality for ALL girls and ALL boys. The dress code is crazy unfair, and I’m done,” she concluded her self proclaimed “feminist rant.”

Sophie’s school dress code that she shared on Instagram. (Photo: @s0ph8/Instagram)

The teenager also shared a picture of the school’s dress code, which states that pants, skirts, and shorts must be of “sufficient length” and undergarments cannot show. Shirts must be able to touch the top of the bottoms when in a “normal standing position,” and they can’t be see-through or low-cut.


Sophie’s friends and fellow students defended her by showing up to school in midriff-baring tops, tight pants, and cutoffs. About 20 teens joined forces to take action, labeling the day #CropTopTuesday. “Shoutout to the many amazing people who supported the cause #croptoptuesday,” Sophie captioned the photo.

Carol-Ann Leidloff, Trafalgar Middle School’s principal, was not angry about their actions. “Our students expressed their frustrations about our school’s dress code in a peaceful, respectful way during their protest and it was a good example of democracy in action,” Leidloff tells Yahoo Style. “We’ve heard their voices and will be meeting with student representatives (a boy and a girl from each eighth-grade  class) on Thursday to discuss how we can improve our school code so that it works for everyone. This was a great learning opportunity and in the end, will build a stronger school community where students feel they have a voice that truly can make a difference.”

This isn’t the first time students have protested a dress code. Just a few weeks ago, a bunch of students at Belgrade High School in Montana staged a protest of the school’s strict rules when it comes to hemlines — and were sent home because of it. In March, high school students from El Paso, Texas, staged an on-campus demonstration about a dress code that prevents them from exposing their “underarms.” Crop tops are a common rallying point for students, as teens from Canada’s Prince Edward Island wore crop tops to class last October in protest of unnecessary school dress codes.

These students feel clothing doesn’t distract them from learning; administrators pulling them out of class because of clothing do.

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