A group of girls at Frederick County, Maryland’s Urbana Middle School are protesting their school’s dress code with shirts that read “I Am Not a Distraction.”
The students created their homemade shirts after they say the school’s new principal, Peter Daddone, forced anyone in violation of the dress code to wear an oversized yellow T-shirt, according to the Frederick News-Post.
They argue that requiring students to wear one of the oversized shirts as punishment is actually against the dress code, which states that students “who are in violation will be addressed privately by an administrator or staff member.”
The protestors are also frustrated that the dress code mostly focuses on girls’ clothing – banning spaghetti straps, shorts under a 4-inch inseam and shirts that reveal cleavage – not boys’.
“They’re telling us it’s our responsibility not to be distracting, when it should be their responsibility,” eighth-grader Abby Carioti told the Frederick News-Post, adding that the school shouldn’t be teaching boys that it’s inappropriate for girls to show their shoulders.
Tom Saunders, the Frederick County instructional director of middle schools, argued that the dress code is largely female-focused because boys’ clothing hasn’t changed over the years from the typical T-shirts and shorts, and that they don’t have to worry about potentially revealing undergarments such as a bra.
“I think the basis of the policy is keeping a safe, nurturing learning environment,” Saunders says.
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Rachel Zuniga, a senior at Linganore High School, also in Frederick County, is working on a petition against her own school’s dress code, which demands that girls cover most of their legs, backs and shoulders. She told the News-Post that the current dress code promotes “rape culture.”
“They’re teaching guys that it is okay for their wrongdoings against females because of our actions,” Zuniga says. “We wore this, so it’s our fault for their misbehavior.”
Frederick County Public Schools has not returned PEOPLE’s request for comment.