Mar 6, 2023 - News

ACLU backs Texas student, alleges dress code discrimination

Illustration of a track with a shadow of a woman being cast in the shape of the female symbol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas sent a letter last week to Spring Branch ISD about what they say are discriminatory practices after a female track runner raised concerns over the dress code policy and gender inequities.

What's happening: A junior at Spring Woods High School, referred to as G.H., objected to the school's dress code — which the ACLU says imposed restrictions based on "immodesty" only on girls — and how the school enforced the dress code.

  • G.H. also spoke out against what she believes is unequal coaching and training of the girls' cross-country team.
  • After that, the ACLU of Texas says, Spring Branch ISD staff dismissed G.H.'s concerns, her head coach's behavior changed, and she did not receive an award for being the top runner on the girls' cross-country team — a critical credential for college applications and recruiting — despite having the best performance record on the team.

Of note: The ACLU says the school enforced the dress code only after G.H., the team's only Black athlete, started participating.

Details: In the letter, the ACLU says school officials reprimanded G.H. for running in a sports bra in 100-degree heat while allowing male students to practice shirtless.

The intrigue: The ACLU says the school's policies "may run afoul of" the 14th Amendment and Title IX.

What they're saying: "I had faith that the people meant to protect us would do so and do right by us. Me stepping forward for my teammates may never benefit me, but it will benefit the next young woman of color that looks like me," G.H. said in a statement.

  • "The discrimination G.H. faced is unfortunately all too common for Black girls in our country's schools, and dress codes are often the excuse schools hide behind for that mistreatment," said Liza Davis, Skadden Fellow at the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "We refuse to stand by while Spring Branch ISD staff mistreat the cross-country team's only Black athlete because she dared to speak up for herself and her fellow students."

The other side: Spring Branch ISD denied any discrimination and in a statement to Axios the district said it "treats students equally and fairly."

  • "We are aware of the situation with one student at one of our high schools who is dissatisfied with SBISD practices, which are applied to all athletes at that campus," the statement said. "SBISD is currently investigating this matter."

What's next: ACLU has requested a meeting with the district to discuss and resolve these concerns.


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