In 1975, parents with children in the Clovis Unified School District raised money to file an ACLU lawsuit against the district, on behalf of a five-year-old boy and two other boys because the district considered their hair to be too long. The CUSD won that case in court, and the little boys were forced to cut their hair, simply because CUSD wants there to be a distinction between boys and girls. For the next 40 years, boys in CUSD would have to keep their hair very short, taking away their individual freedoms to shave designs into their hair. Designs like stars, lighting bolts, and waves because having an artistic individuality is too liberal for CUSD. Boys in CUSD are taken out of class, which takes away from their education, when the administration has been informed that their hair is longer than buzz cut short or that they have designs shaved into their head that are not CUSD approved.
However, according to ACLU attorney Abre Conner, "Having a dress code where a boy has to cut their hair and girl students do not have to cut their hair or girls can wear earrings and boys cannot wear earringswould be…in direct violation of the law." Under the California Education Code (Ch. 2 Art. 3 Sec. 220), students are entitled to their right of not being subjected to "...discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression..." So by not allowing boys to have long hair or be able to wear earrings, CUSD is breaking the law, and they have been for 40 years. Although, just last year, two students (one being a young Native American boy) went to the ACLU over their hair and dress code and won. So the district is compliant when they realize that Native American boys have long hair for cultural and religious practices. But when the average boy who wants to express himself by growing out his hair, they won’t allow it? Interesting, but what about our transgender students currently in CUSD right now, whom are discovering and exploring their gender identities? What does being different or LGBTQ+ look like in a public school district with such a strict dress code?
I remember being in their shoes. I was biologically born female but I never considered myself feminine. When I was in 5th grade at Maple Creek Elementary School, I asked my mom if I could wear boy’s clothes to school, and she let me, knowing full well the discrimination I could face for crossdressing. There were a group of girls that wore boy’s clothes, kids called us tomboys. But no one ever said anything (not even the CUSD administration) or questioned my gender, until I was in 7th grade at Kastner Intermediate. In middle school, kids used to ask me if I was a butch lesbian because I wore boy’s clothes. The truth is that I never questioned my sexual orientation or even understood my gender identity at the time; I mean I was only 13-years-old. But in order to stop kids from asking questions that I did not have any answers to, I forced myself to wear girl’s clothes and try to be feminine for the next 4 years of high school. At Clovis West High School, I tried really hard to be feminine, I lived for compliments and to be accepted by people, but I never was. I had no idea what a transgender person was until I got to college. I feel like if I had known, I could have saved myself from so much hurt and depression. I feel a sense of obligation to protect these transgender kids in CUSD because I don’t want them to go through the same pain and suffering that I did.
I want kids in CUSD to be able to explore their gender, question their gender and sexual orientation, and feel the freedom to express themselves. Every guy I know that graduated from CUSD, within the first year of graduating, grows out their hair and tries to grow a beard. They all feel such freedom after they graduate from CUSD because there’s not one boy that hasn’t been called into the office at least once because they either need to shave or have their hairline checked. CUSD’s dress code is way too strict for public schools, not to mention they’re breaking the law! Some CUSD administrators don’t even think that this is a transgender issue. But when CUSD board member, Richard Lake, states that, “to me, a woman is a woman and a man’s a man, there’s a difference.” I think it does become a transgender issue because gender is not black and white, especially for children who are still discovering who they are, while they’re in school. All students regardless of race, religious background, class, gender, and sexual orientation have a right to a good, fair education in CUSD. Transgender students just want to be treated like everyone else, I’m calling on you: CUSD board members, students, parents, and administrators, not for my sake, but for the sake of the students and children, trying to receive an award winning education in CUSD. Please sign this petition https://unite.gsanetwork.org/petitions/cusd-gender-neutral-dress-code and make the CUSD board members update the dress code policy, before we have another ACLU lawsuit on our hands.