Students at Acclaimed Miami Arts Charter School Protest Strict New Dress Code

Summer break is over, and if you’re a female student at Miami Arts Charter School, you might want to stock up on pants. That’s because all skirts and dresses are now banned. But even pants options are tightly limited: No leggings, yoga pants, or ripped jeans are allowed this year. Shorts are OK — as long as they’re not denim. "School-appropriate" Bermuda and cargo shorts are best.

These rules are included in a dress code that went into effect at the end of last year at the acclaimed visual and performing arts school, which has campuses in Wynwood and Homestead. And some students at the creativity-focused academy are pushing back.

"You are telling girls of all ages that pleasing the people around them and how she dresses is way more important than her education," reads a petition started by students at the school

Miami Arts Charter opened in 2009 and enrolls nearly 1,600 sixth through 12th-grade students who audition to get in. It has earned all A’s and B’s in the state’s accountability system and was ranked as Florida’s 60th best school by U.S. News and World Report.

Previously, students there had to wear polos and khaki or black pants or shorts. The new dress code, though, doesn’t give much wiggle room. Students aren't allowed to wear tank tops, sandals, or combat-style boots or have piercings anywhere besides the earlobe. Their hair also must be of natural color.

Break the rules, and a student gets a referral that stays in his or her permanent record. Dress code offenders can also be removed from class.

Some students spent the summer trying to push back with their online petition, which seeks to change the "completely absurd" dress code. The petition says the new rules are especially unfair to female students.

"First of all, we live in Miami. A place where the temperature around the school year is at an average of 80+ degrees, and guess what? Our school requires us to have lunch outside in the hot sun, otherwise we could be deeply punished," the petition complains. "Basically, if you are a girl, your only option for coming to school is wearing long, thick jeans."

The petition also argues that students should be free to express themselves because they attend an art school. The petition drew 122 signatures and comments such as, “I refuse to be a distraction.” One student said the new rules had ruined her plans to dye her hair pastel pink.

On its website, Miami Arts Charter says the dress code is intended to "ensure appropriate attire for a school environment."

"Student attire in school plays a vital role toward ensuring an appropriate learning environment is maintained,” the website says. "Setting standards of attire helps to prepare students for the professional world and also establishes reasonable expectations regarding professionalism. Such standards also provide guidelines to ensure that common sense standards of decency and student behavior are met."