Several students at Buchanan High School in Clovis, California, protested their school's dress code last week when boys showed up for class in dresses, while girls wore collared shirts and button-downs.
The protest was sparked following a 4-3 vote by the Clovis Unified School District trustees against changes to the dress code that would have allowed boys to have long hair and wear earrings.
The current dress code policy, set in 1975 and applying to all schools in the district, states that "male haircuts may not fall below the mid-point of a standard stand up shirt collar and earlobes must be visible." It also states that earrings are "not appropriate or acceptable" for male students.
Changes to the dress code were proposed last summer after Buchanan High student William Pleasant stated in a published open letter that he'd been prevented from enrolling for his senior year due to his long hair. "I want to know why girls can have short or long hair but men are forced to have short hair," Pleasant wrote.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the school's policy violates California law, under which gender expression is a protected category. "We were shocked that they decided not to comply with the law. At this point, we haven't ruled out any potential strategies including a lawsuit, and we are currently evaluating our next steps," ACLU attorney Abré Conner said in a statement.
Many high school students took to social media to voice their concerns and plan a day to dress "out of dress code."
"The reason we switched gender norms for the day was to make the statement that what we wear does not define us as students," senior Emma Sledd told The Fresno Bee.
"Our district's dress code should not favor or discriminate any gender. We believe everyone should be able to express themselves equally. A boy with long hair is no less of a hard worker than a girl with long hair," she added.
"We are dedicated to raising students to be good citizens," district spokeswoman Kelly Avants told BuzzFeed News. "Part of being a good citizen is the ability to express yourself when you're not happy with a decision and we respect that."
She added, "When we have students that want to do so, we work with them to express their viewpoint without disrupting the rest of the student environment."
No male students were disciplined for wearing dresses in class, though two girls were written up for wearing shirts that read "dress code sucks."
Avants also said in a statement to The Bee that all students are protected under the current dress policy.
"If a student has come to the administration, we'll work with them to make sure that they have an environment on campus that allows them to express themselves with the gender in which they identify," Avants said.