Mallory Johnston is a strapping young girl with a bold message. The Grade 10 student recently got suspended from school because she tried to protest against an official regulation that she found offensive: a ban on exposed bra straps.
She wasn’t the only student who was upset: some of her friends were also outraged at what they saw to be an unfair disciplinary action. The girls had all been called out for wearing clothing that exposed their bra straps. They were either sent home straight away or were asked to change the offensive attire because school authority figures felt their bra straps should not have been visible. Mallory, a victim of the rule herself, decided to take matters into her own hands.
She designed posters with provocative messages like “Stop objectifying women” and “Dress code perpetuates rape culture” among others. The adamant student hung these posters up around the school’s corridors where they were immediately taken down by administration. Mallory said they were “ripped” off the walls.
Essex High School student suspended over dress code protest
Mallory Johnston says several of her friends were sent home or told to change because their bra straps were showing.https://t.co/15cYuqGtgT pic.twitter.com/Aru3SgW3rB
— CBC Windsor (@CBCWindsor) May 10, 2018
The frustrated teen spoke to CBC, saying she got handed first a detention notice and then suspension, after she tried to raise this issue. She also said it was ironic that right before she put up the posters, her class had been studying the topic of body shaming. However, it seems school administrators were not brought up to speed on that particular subject.
my best friend is making me so proud pic.twitter.com/cCG8e7afQq
— Grace Wood (@scb_44) May 8, 2018
— Grace Wood (@scb_44) May 8, 2018
I hope my daughters will also balance wardrobe, self-respect, education and school rules and stand up for what they believe in when they’re your age. https://t.co/Ip5BU063YA
— Greg Layson (@GLaysonANC) May 10, 2018
Mallory was told that her posters were not ‘appropriate’. “I was more angry than upset, because I was simply standing up for something that I believe in, which we are taught to do in school but then I got disciplined for it and I didn’t know why,” she said.
Mallory isn’t alone in her story, though; Gracelynn Wood, another student at the Essex District High School, also reported that she was called in to the school office after she wore a shirt exposing her bra straps. However, she did it on purpose, to support best friend Mallory’s protest. When asked to change her shirt, she refused and was then sent home with her mother.
The teenager has also refused to back down. She believes the school’s actions are ‘degrading’ and that the administration is biased towards the boys. “…it’s always about the girls,” she said, pointing out that her male classmates haven’t had to face any of these dress code issues. It seems that her and Mallory’s voices have become powerful in the little school.
There is now a petition that students are signing; most of them are using #TakeAStand on their social media to signify that they’re also a part of the movement. And the petition hasn’t stopped at this particular high school; students at other schools in the area have also added their voices because, apparently, unfair dress codes are a hot topic.
The Essex District High School did not respond with clarity. The principal, Mike Hawkins, said he could not talk about specific incidents but did state that students are not allowed to post anything around the school; they need to get prior approval first, which Mallory did not have. He also spoke about the dress code, saying it is not a male or female issue, but just a general dress code guideline.
However, students who have petitioned have read the student guidebook and say that there is no mention of exposed bra straps being banned. Mallory’s mother is standing by her in this issue: she also read the guidebook for clarity and decided to stand behind her daughter. “I will stand by her 100 per cent again. She is doing the right thing and she’s not just doing it for herself, she is doing it for every girl at Essex High,” she said.
More updates on this as the story progresses.