Dress Code Leads to ‘Tank Top Tuesday’ Student Protest


Sophia Khan

Showing off their shoulders, Juniors Remy Dufresne, Jean Park, and Finn Schwartz join their classmates in demanding a more stylish, comfortable dress code.

Elizabeth Wolfe and Sophia Khan

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Students at Haverford staged a protest against the dress code on Tuesday, September 28th by wearing tank tops at school throughout the day.

Nicknamed “Tank Top Tuesday,” this planned protest spread its message through the Instagram account @hhs.dresscode. The account, whose manager remains anonymous on Instagram, first posted a flyer for the event on September 24th. Leading up to Tuesday, it continued to post information regarding the protest as well as photos of handwritten notes expressing disapproval of the dress code.

“I saw it on people’s Instagram stories,” said Sophie Tomov, a senior who participated in Tank Top Tuesday. “I think social media is a great way of spreading the word about this kind of thing.” 

Sophie Tomov wears a tank top to support Tank Top Tuesday while getting ready for after-school orchestra sectionals. (Elizabeth Wolfe)

Currently, the 2019-2020 Student Handbook states that, “It is the responsibility of the students to: . . .Dress and groom themselves so as to meet the fair standards of safety and health, and so as not to cause substantial disruption to the educational process. . .”

The policies regarding student dress, which can be found on the Haverford School District website, give an overarching description of how the dress code is implemented. The basic school regulations on student dress include clothes or grooming practices that present a risk to health or safety, materially interfere with schoolwork or disrupt the education of others, cause excessive damage to school property, and prevent the student from learning due to restricted mobility. It is up to the school principal to translate and enforce these policies. 

In addition, the student handbook outlines the dress code guidelines as follows:  “Examples of clothing that are typically unacceptable” include “Clothing that has inappropriate language or graphics/ any articles of clothing that contains reference to drugs/ alcohol, and weapons/ Clothing that is too revealing/ Hats and hoods.”

The administration had noticed an increased number of female students wearing tank tops and crop tops during the first week of school. The administration decided that they would allow this clothing for the first week and reevaluate if there should be a response in future weeks and tank tops become an issue. 

The Instagram account for Tank Top Tuesday posted a flyer that said, “As you may have heard, it’s been announced that the dress code of ‘no shoulders and no stomachs’ will be heavily enforced next week.”

Some students believe that these rules regarding the dress code send a message that extends beyond what is outlined. “I find it more than offensive that by saying that my shoulders and my stomach don’t have a place in the classroom, they’re saying that I don’t either,” Tomov said. 

The dress code does not explicitly distinguish rules based on gender, but some students who participated in the protest felt that dress codes contain underlying gender discrimination.

“It’s dumb that if you’re a girl, right, you can’t wear a tank top but as a guy, I can. Like, that just doesn’t make any sense,” said Chris Shelton, a junior who participated in the protest by wearing a tank top.

Defying the dress code, Senior Gabe Baron and Junior Chris Shelton bare their shoulders in solidarity with the protesters. In regard to the dress code, Baron explained, “The school wants to teach us about the past instead of the future.” (Sophia Khan)

Sara Samimi, a senior, shared a similar opinion about how the dress code does not have the same implications for all students. Samimi said, “It’s against the rules for girls to even walk around showing off any part of their shoulders or with shorts or a short skirt on. I feel that each girl has the right to wear whatever she wants to.” 

The Haverford Girls’ Tennis team gathers in the locker room wearing tank tops and crop tops. As athletes whose uniform includes a tank top and short skirt, the team felt that their school-issued uniforms defy the dress code. (Left to Right: Sophomore Franki Hally, Freshman Ella DeLise, Seniors Paige Braunlich and Sara Samimi, Juniors Jean Park and Katie Blickley, and Senior Maddie Williams) (Sophia Khan)

After the protest, Principal Peter Donaghy complimented students on the way they staged a peaceful protest, which conveyed their message safely. He wants students to be able to come to talk to him about issues, both positive and negative.

Even though the protest was planned for a single day, the Instagram account does not seem to be finished with advocating for change. “Thank you to everyone that participated in Tank Top Tuesday!!!” read the account’s most recent post. “If you have any other ideas for what we should do next, feel free to dm [direct message] me!!”

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