High School student Amaya Neal, middle in white T-shirt, stands outside with her mother Mindy Neal, after Tuesday night's school board meeting. Mrs. Neal said her daughter's school has been working with them on the dress code after her daughter had two violations during the opening week. Girls can now wear shorts when they couldn't before, she said. (Photo by Greg Rickabaugh)

   Several frustrated parents – and one middle-school girl – asked Fort Mill school trustees Tuesday night to change the district’s dress code that unfairly targets girls and takes valuable time away from educating students.

   Parent Megan Neal called the policy a “stress code,” and she passed on several stories to the trustees from students who have been dress-coded for violations.

   She said one high school sophomore had to ask her mom to leave work because the daughter’s skirt was too short as measured by a staff member. “The boys show more skin and rarely get dress-coded,” Neal said, calling it a form of body-shaming.

   A middle-school girl, Lucy Drew of Banks Trail Middle School, also stepped up to the microphone and had a simple message. “Don’t tell me I’m a distraction,” she said, urging board members to work with parents and students on a newer dress code.

  The public comments come as the number of people signing a Change.org petition has climbed to 5,600 people by Tuesday, but not all of those are from Fort Mill. The petition is asking the district to rewrite the dress code, calling the policies “unrealistic, arbitrarily enforced and unfair” to females.

   School Trustee Chairwoman Kristy Spears told parents on Tuesday night that the administration would create a process to review the dress codes and receive feedback from all parents. Last week, the district issued a defense of its policy as “designed to be gender neutral” and “applied equally to males and females.”

   “With a district of our size, now over 17,000 students, it’s to be expected that views cover the full range of the spectrum, and it is our job to find a solution that will best serve students in our district,” Spears said Tuesday. “We review a subset of policies each year, and I’ve asked the Administration to include the Dress Code policy in this year’s review, including its implementation, and to ensure it is being applied equally regardless of gender. If, at the end of that review, there are any recommendations for changes, the Administration will bring those back to the Board for further review and discussion.”

   After the meeting, parent Jon Seidman said he wasn’t convinced anything would change and was hoping for more than “maybe we’ll do something.” He said a district with 17,000 students is wasting a lot of education hours on patrolling how students are dressed.

   “As a father of a girl, my concern is that I don’t want her to worry about being a distraction,” he said. “I want her to concentrate on her education.”