Ella Arnold has been pulled out of class multiple times this school year.

Once, it caused the freshman at Kokomo High School to miss a test prep session.

Each time it was for a dress code violation.

When Arnold missed her test pep, it was for a hole in her pants near her knee. She was removed from class another time because her bra strap was exposed due to how she was carrying her book bag.

A dress code violation can result in an in-school suspension, having to wear clothes from the lost and found or patching a hole with duct tape.

Arnold said consequences depend on the severity of the violation. For a hole in her pants, Arnold said she had to cover it with duct tape but she had to put the tape on her skin, under her pants.

Students are not allowed to wear “saggy pants; shorts, skirts, or dresses shorter than three inches from the knee,” according to Kokomo High School’s student handbook.

Shirts are required to be long enough, and pants high enough, to not show a student’s stomach. Spaghetti straps, halter tops, bare shoulders, bare backs and low necklines are also not allowed.

Arnold said she isn’t the only student who has been sent to the office multiple times for a dress code violation. The freshman said its mostly girls who are getting dress coded.

It’s also frustrating for Arnold’s stepfather, Johnathan Fletcher, who said parents aren’t notified when their child is taken out of class for a dress code issue.

“If my child was being suspended, even in school, I think parents should be notified,” he said. “We can’t address it, even if it is an issue.”

Fletcher said the dress code policy reads the same as it did when he was a student at KHS in 2005.

Arnold isn’t opposed to a dress code. She agrees that too short of shorts and T-shirts with profanity on them should not be allowed, but what Arnold and other students want is a more reasonable dress code.

Arnold said she and other students, along with Fletcher, have tried to contact school administration about their concerns, but there has been no dialogue.

Students organized a protest last month across from the high school, after classes let out for the day. Both Fletcher and Arnold said students were threatened with suspension if they attended the after-school protest.

Arnold said she was specifically told she’d be suspended if she went, though she’s unaware of any student who was punished for attending.

“There should be no reason whatsoever that staff should be scaring students,” Fletcher said.

Kokomo School Corporation officials declined to comment for this story.

Pushback against dress codes isn’t new. Students across the country challenge dress codes they argue are sexist and classist each year.

For example, opponents of dress codes that police holes in pants argue they punish low-income students.

Similarly, critics of dress codes that forbid the showing of shoulders argue these policies are sexist, as they place responsibility on girls to not be distracting, instead of on all students to be respectful of others.

“I’m sure if the school didn’t point us out, it wouldn’t be distracting,” Arnold said.

This story has been updated to identify Johnathan Fletcher as Ella Arnold's stepfather. 

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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