Beaufort News

Beaufort High student's dress-code protest part of larger social media trend

Carey Burgess in a photograph she posted on her Facebook page.
Carey Burgess in a photograph she posted on her Facebook page. Facebook

A Beaufort High School student's viral Facebook post on her dress-code breach this week has residents talking about much more than stripes and skirt lengths.

Reaction to the post has been split between those angry with the school for sending student body president Carey Burgess to an in-school suspension, and those who take issue with Burgess herself for repeatedly breaking the rules and venting on social media.

Burgess' original post came soon after she was disciplined for wearing a "too short" skirt, which most commenters and Beaufort High Principal Corey Murphy agree looks appropriate as worn in a picture attached to the post.

The post has been shared more than 6,600 times on Facebook, and Burgess' story appeared online Thursday on BuzzFeed, Cosmopolitan and the United Kingdom newspaper The Daily Mail.

Today, I wore this outfit to Beaufort High School. About 20 minutes into the day, my friend and I were excused from...

Posted by Carey Burgess on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If your device doesn't display Burgess' post, click or tap here.

One woman commented on Facebook that the modesty of the clothes isn't the issue. Burgess and her parents should know whether it met the school's guidelines, she said.

"But what I find most disturbing is how many people are lauding this teen's reaction to a disagreement, or maybe even a misunderstanding with the school and those in a position of authority over her," the woman wrote.

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Other readers referred to her as a "petulant child."

Burgess has since apologized on Facebook to any teachers who felt personally attacked by what she wrote, adding that many have been supportive following the incident.

However, she is far from the first teenager to use social media to object to a dress code.

Last month, students at Charleston County School of the Arts in North Charleston began wearing T-shirts with scarlet letter A's to protest what they considered an overly strict dress code and discrimination against female and heavy-set students, the Post and Courier reported.

The cause picked up steam on social media, with people Tweeting their support with the hashtag #NotADistraction, referencing some peoples' arguments that male students can't focus when they can see the upper thighs and collarbones of their female peers.

Meanwhile, a female student at James River High School in Chesterfield County, Va., turned to Richmond station WTVR and other media after the school reportedly ignored her concerns about violators being forced to wear sweatpants with the words "dress code."

That punishment, student Lydia Cleveland said, served only to shame female students.

School policies on dress are common. About half of all public schools in the country enforcing a strict dress code in 2011-2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Some students -- in North Charleston and Chesterfield County -- protest only the enforcement of their schools' codes.

Others, such as part-time Beaufort County student Talia Parisi, question the existence of a dress code at all. Parisi also posted on Facebook recently to say she was grated by Battery Creek High School's rules against tight pants.

"I'm a 17 year old girl," Parisi wrote. "I should not be stripped of my education because a male staff member is staring..."

Attempts to reach Burgess and Beaufort High Principal Corey Murphy were unsuccessful Thursday.

It was not clear what actions, if any, the school has taken to investigate the other claims in Burgess' post that some teachers make sexist jokes or call women inferior.

Gregory McCord, chief student services officer, said those claims would be handled at the school level. He said he was also unaware of any pushback against the dress code.

Bluffton High School Principal Mark Dievendorf, who was not aware of the situation with Burgess, said he understands some students want more freedom of expression, but many also appreciate the goals of the district's dress code -- such as increasing equality between the rich and poor, limiting gang influence, increasing school spirit and preparing students for the work place.

To be effective, though, a policy must be enforced consistently and fairly, Dievendorf said.

"The dignity of the individual is very important to me," he said. "My goal would be to address behaviors so that the dignity of the individual I'm working with remains intact."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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