Students Defy Gender Norms to Protest Clovis Dress Code

Boys wear dresses to Buchanan High School in protest of the Clovis Unified School District's decision not to update its decades-old dress code.

Boys wear dresses to Buchanan High School in protest of the Clovis Unified School District's decision not to update its decades-old dress code. (Courtesy Mariah Crespin)

In the small city of Clovis northeast of Fresno, high school students are protesting their district’s decision not to update its controversial, decades-old dress code.

The code forbids boys from wearing earrings or keeping their hair below their earlobes. A proposed update would have set the same standards around hair and jewelry for both boys and girls, and would have removed language saying skirts and dresses are for girls. Last Wednesday, Clovis Unified trustees voted 4-3 against updating the policy.

Numerous students at Buchanan High responded to that decision by defying gender norms with their outfits, the Fresno Bee reports:

Buchanan High School senior Patrick Smart wore a dress for the first time last week. His classmate, Emma Sledd, wore a collared men’s shirt to school.

“The reason we switched gender norms for the day was to make the statement that what we wear does not define us as students,” Sledd said. “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.”

Sledd, a senior, was joined by a few of her female classmates in wearing stereotypically boyish attire, and tweeted: “If we can dress like them, they can dress like us.”

Changes to the Clovis Unified dress code were proposed not long after Buchanan High student William Pleasant’s claims last summer that he’d been prevented from enrolling for his senior year because his hair extended past his earlobes and shirt collar.

Pleasant wrote a letter to the Fresno Bee about the dress code. His family got in touch with the ACLU, which argued to Clovis Unified officials that the dress code violates state laws against gender discrimination because it has different standards for boys and girls.

In a blog post responding to the district’s decision to leave the dress code in place, ACLU staff attorney Abre’ Conner writes that Clovis Unified has “defied reason and the law” in refusing to update the dress code.

The district has also tangled with the ACLU because it taught abstinence-only sex education and denied a Native American student’s request to wear an eagle feather in his graduation cap.

Students Defy Gender Norms to Protest Clovis Dress Code 3 February,2016David Marks

  • Ray Fischer

    Clovis is in one of those conservative, backward parts of California.

  • Robert

    Had no idea we had such backward uninformed non-educated morons in Calfornia.

    • W. Campana

      Not letting students intentionally make a spectacle of themselves is backwards, uninformed, non-educated, moronic? These students are not expressing their true identities, they are making a political spectacle.

      • elizapar

        What about trans students being themselves?

      • EarthyChick

        Yes, they are making a political statement. They are protesting the dress code.
        Why can’t boys dress the way they want? How is having longer hair, wearing a skirt, or an ear ring making a spectacle of yourself?

      • Jake

        What about all of those scottish boys and their kilts?

    • pltidwell

      Even Toyota calls this region, “the Other California.” Better to think of this region and its values as reminiscent of the unreconstructed South. Rather than focus on the neolithic attitudes of the BOT, better to celebrate the heroic actions of these brave students in the face of such repression. Bravo to them…and, they are the future of Clovis.

    • AC43

      You are a resident in California (naming calling without expressing a serious point), so yes I guess backward non-educated morons do reside in California.

  • harrydevlin

    These students are godless communists. The school district is just trying to promote Christian values in school. Did the founders have long hair and wear dresses. Oh wait, don’t answer that.

    • AC43

      Long hair and dresses is not the point of any fair and honest discussion.

      The more accurate and honest question, “did the men of the day you want to expound dress exactly like the women of the day?”

  • Jane

    The parents who made the dress code, and the parents want the focus to be on curriculum and succeeding. That is why they are a great school district. Nowadays people are pushing the limits and focusing on every issue besides educating our young properly and preparing our youth for the real world. CUSD does a great job of that. We need to focus on what students are learning in the classroom and not the dress code and what they are wearing. CUSD sets them up for real world rules and expectations. An employer does not give a shit how a person feels or how they want to express themselves through fashion. They have dress codes and expect all to abide no matter who or what they are. CUSD is preparing the students for that.

  • AC43

    I am so glad I see no boys of color in this photo…..

    “This is a cause of children without a serious cause”!

    By the way, education and the preparation of future contributions should be the focus of school (as oppose to some silly show of fashion).

    Wear your dresses at home (or as soon as you leave campus).

    • Rilian Sharp

      Yet you’re ok with the school teaching discrimination.

      • AC43

        What discrimination; don’t see dogs, lynching, out-of-control bullies, water hoses. I don’t see any official attempting to suppress goals and dreams. Looking at the photo here, I don’t even see a worn down, fractured self esteem appearance. Nothing displayed or complained about that may adversely effect their future in the long term.

        I do see boys wanting what they want, when they want, and being a spectacle of themselves, maybe attempting to appear sensitive.

        So I say, “learn at school, attend to rights such as these low class, no real problem to speak of complaints at home.

        • Rilian Sharp

          Sexist discrimination. At any amount, it is not OK.

          • AC43

            I see children as immature as children who demand to wear anything they want, and their parents knowing better than their childish tantrums.
            When these boys, immature appearing all, portray the responsibility (beyond their immediate requests) to be accountable for their actions and demands, call me.

          • Rilian Sharp

            The only arguments against them wearing those clothes are sexist arguments. There’s nothing wrong with boys wearing dresses/skirts.

          • AC43

            When women along with men have to sign up for selective service, when women along with men are subject to common media mocking, when my boy is cultivated and supported as much as my girls, I would ignore the balance of my boy’s societal responsibilities for his immediate whims and wishes.

            Name call it “sexist” all you want;

            I can’t hear your complaint, the cases of real protests drown you out and the difficulty of raising children of color (who are as threaten in your liberal enclaves as in conservative ones) demand more of my attention.

            It has been fun; you can enjoy the last word.

          • Rilian Sharp

            What. The.

            You cite other examples of discrimination against male people as justification for this instance of discrimination against boys. 0_o


David Marks

David Marks is an interactive producer for KQED News and The California Report. He began as full-time interactive producer in 2015, after working as KQED’s audio archivist and promotions manager for Radio. Prior to that, David was an announcer and DJ at NPR member station KRCC in Colorado Springs. Reach him at

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