A Houston-area teen enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union after she says her school reprimanded her for working out in a sports bra while male athletes were allowed to practice shirtless.
The girl, who was only identified by her initials G.H., says she is a cross-country and track athlete at Spring Woods High School in Houston. In a press release from the local ACLU chapter, she said she was disciplined for wearing a sports bra while she was working out in 100-degree heat.
According to the release from the ACLU, after the student complained, the school district staff then “regarded G.H. dismissively and denied her an award for being the top runner on the girls’ cross-country team.”
The student says she has the best performance record on the team and has never missed a practice. She says the award would have been “critical” for college applications and recruiting.
The ACLU sent a letter to Spring Branch ISD warning the district that “it appears that District officials and employees have maintained and enforced the District’s dress code in a manner that reflects and reinforces invidious sex stereotypes and have treated the Spring Woods High School girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams differently in the quality of coaching and training in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
The letter goes into detail about G.H.’s treatment on the cross-country and track teams and notes that she felt targeted by her coaches for speaking out and by the changing standards in dress codes for student athletes.
Spring Branch ISD did not respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment on March 3.
The district gave the Houston CBS affiliate, KHOU, the following statement:
“Spring Branch ISD denies any discrimination and treats students equally and fairly. We are aware of the situation with one student at one of our high schools who is dissatisfied with SBISD practices, which are applied to all athletes at that campus. SBISD is currently investigating this matter.”
“I never thought this would come to this point,” G.H. said in a release. “I had faith that the people meant to protect us would do so and do right by us. Me stepping forward for my teammates may never benefit me, but it will benefit the next young woman of color that looks like me.”
Liz Davis, from the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, also noted in the statement that G.H. is also the cross-country team’s only Black athlete. The ACLU letter notes that G.H. believes the dress code was only enforced when she was participating. “Black girls and other girls of color are disproportionately targeted for dress and grooming code enforcement because of internalized, intersecting race and gender stereotypes about proper feminine behavior and appearance,” the letter reads.
The ACLU letter concludes by arguing that the district’s dress code “reinforce(s) broad and archaic generalizations about boys’ and men’s inability to control their sexual impulses and girls’ inability to make their own decisions about the clothing that makes them feel safe and physically comfortable.”
The letter also notes that “sports bras are the official uniform tops of this country’s most competitive women’s team, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Track and Field Team.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY
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