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James River High School student gets help in fight against ‘discriminatory’ dress code

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The American Civil Liberties Union is now involved with a dispute between a student and administrators at James River High School. Lydia Cleveland, a senior at the high school, said the school's dress code was unfair to female students.

Lydia Cleveland

Cleveland explained the issue arose when the women’s field hockey team wore their uniforms, which included running shorts, to school for Spirit Day and were told they were violating the rules.

The ACLU told school board members during Tuesday's board meeting that the dress code policy was vague and discriminatory. It added if the board did not look into changing the dress code, it could face litigation.

The Chesterfield County School Board declined to comment on the issue, saying it was now a legal matter.

Last month, Cleveland wrote a letter to school leaders to express her displeasure with the situation.

"This is telling our bright young women that it is their fault when they are sexualized in the eyes of other people,” she said.  “The fact that our school would have uniforms for a school sport that were then not acceptable for the dress code during the school day, that`s ridiculous.”

At the time, Chesterfield Schools spokesperson Shawn Smith said the girls wore the uniforms without the knowledge of the school and coach, and those uniforms, as well as the cheerleaders uniforms, are not allowed at school during instruction because they do not meet dress expectations.

Smith also said the policy had not changed from previous years, and sent CBS 6 a copy of the school board's policy that laid out the dress code. It highlighted that individual schools may develop more restrictive expectations.