GREEN RIVER — From the front of a class, Samantha Hardin said she was called out for wearing a sleeveless top at Green River High School. She added she was cornered last week by Principal Darren Howard, Assistant Principal Joe Hamel and a teacher and told her apparel wasn’t appropriate.
She said she replied, “I’d like to know what is not appropriate, Mr. Howard.”
After all, the school reportedly doesn’t have a provision in its dress code forbidding the showing of shoulders.
Hardin said Howard’s only reply was that she should go into his office if she wanted to discuss it further. She said she wasn’t comfortable with that, but with the encouragement of her mother, Jennifer Petri, the junior spoke Tuesday at the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 board meeting.
Jesse Lauze also testified about being asked to cover her shoulders. The senior said she was told the same thing in the spring. Petri said the same is true of her ninth-grade daughter, Jessica Petri.
“It feels objectifying,” Lauze said, adding that it was “frankly unjust.”
The same day Hardin was “coded,” two teachers were wearing sleeveless attire, said a school staff member who asked to not be named.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Hamel declined to comment. He did not respond to an additional request for comment as of press time.
When Hardin was pulled aside, she said she even applied a “three-finger rule” to indicate how much of her shoulders were showing.
Then Hamel “chimed in,” Hardin said, and told her not to complicate things.
Hardin said she lost time she “could have used” to go to her locker for attire that covered her shoulders.
Lauze called it an issue of “privilege,” saying “higher-level students” like those on sports teams have gone sleeveless and not been confronted. She said the school is “enforcing rules not written down.”
“They’re AP students and they still get dress-coded, almost at random, in front of people,” Jennifer Petri said of Hardin and Lauze.
Lauze added she was asked to change out of romper shorts last spring and responded by saying that she needed to go to her ACT test preparation course.
Hardin said that while Page 13 of a school handbook says to cover the midriff and torso areas of the body, it “never says anything about shoulders.”
“I mean, you shouldn’t have to take time out of your class period,” she said. “You don’t want to go home and have to change. … They aren’t a distraction to anyone and seems kind of oppressive, to be honest.”
Lauze said that the dress code “has long been a problem” with many people.
“I take no issue with the written dress code,” she said, mentioning its provisions concerning the chest and cleavage.
“My issue lies with the unwritten dress code,” Lauze said. “It demonstrates an extreme lack of due process.”
She said being “judged and objectified by those who appear to be our mentors” creates an environment of injustice.
Applause then ensued from some in support of the two girls, including a half-dozen high school students who were there to make a separate presentation and a few others in the audience.
Board member Ann Rudoff said Hardin and Lauze “used their voice … professionally.”
“I take no offense of it … as a board member,” she said. “It’s an area we can look into. … We are teaching students to be part of a community.”
Sweetwater No. 2 Superintendent Donna Little-Kaumo said the statements from the students marked the first time she had heard of the issue.
Board Member Steve Core said he “will not die on a hill” of a dress-code issue at GRHS.
“Thanks to the two ladies who presented tonight,” Chairwoman Brenda Roosa said, adding that the board “will make policy and changes” if needed.