Education

Hardaway student petitioner discloses identity; principal agrees to meet with her

Najwa Shafei
Najwa Shafei

The Hardaway High School student leading the protest against the school’s dress code has agreed to disclose her identity, and the principal has agreed to meet with her.

In an email exchange between them Friday evening, Najwa Shafei, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Hardaway, told principal Matt Bell, “I considered sending this email anonymously out of fear for consequences coming my way, but I think with an issue like this, it’s vital that my own individual voice be heard. I came back from my math class, which I missed a large portion of due to being dress coded, and saw a quote that said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ That is what I decided to do.”

The Ledger-Enquirer reported yesterday that Najwa created an anonymous online petition on Change.org four days ago. The main complaint is about leggings, specifically Hardaway’s rule that considers the thin or tight and stretchy pants as “undergarments” and mandates that “any top or dress worn over leggings must provide adequate coverage all the way around.” Hardaway’s dress code defines “adequate coverage” as no shorter than 5 inches above the knee.

The petition states:

“The dress code at Hardaway takes girls wearing perfectly appropriate and unrevealing outfits and takes them into ISS (in-school suspension) instead of letting them continue their studies in class. What’s more important — us getting an education or us wearing leggings? If boys are so distracted by us wearing perfectly appropriate outfits, they should not be in a school environment to begin with. We want an end to the oppression and sexist behavior that the administration has been pushing onto us!”

As of Saturday afternoon, the petition has collected 107 supporters — and it now identifies Najwa as the petitioner and includes a photo of her.

The protest also has an Instagram page, which attracted 148 followers as of Saturday afternoon, and contends, “Sexualization of our bodies is being prioritized over our education.”

In her email to Bell, Najwa wrote, “We are not asking you to allow girls to wear bikinis to school. We are asking you to stop giving girls detention, ISS, and other harsh punishments for wearing comfortable clothing such as sweatpants and leggings in a learning environment. You are robbing your students of class time and unnecessarily sexualizing and objectifying their bodies.”

Najwa also told Bell, “I hope you take all this information into strong consideration. I am not trying to challenge authority or rebel, I am trying to help improve the school and help bring light to an issue I have witnessed firsthand.”

Bell replied in his email to Najwa, “I would be happy to sit down with you and discuss your concerns.”

Asked for her reaction to Bell’s offer, Najway said Saturday in a text message to the L-E, “I’m open to progressive discussion, and I’m looking forward to what he has to say.”

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