ACLU Supports Boy's Right to Wear Skirts to School

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A 17-year-old high school student -- a male -- may wear a skirt to school under an agreement worked out by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Michael Coviello, a senior at Hasbrouck Heights School in New Jersey, said he is wearing a skirt to school "to bring attention to the fact that the [school's] ban on shorts doesn't make sense."

Coviello's school district prohibits students from wearing shorts to class between Oct. 1 and April 15. Corviello called the policy arbitrary and unfair.

"It is discriminatory for the school dress code to allow skirts but not shorts," Corviello said.

Michael's mother agreed. Laura Coviello contacted the ACLU-NJ after the principal told Michael to stop wearing skirts and kilts to class.

"I'm relieved that the dress policy will be enforced equally and that Michael won't be punished for expressing his disagreement with the school's dress policy," Ms. Coviello said in a press release put out by ACLU-NJ.

On January 3, 2006, the ACLU-NJ sent a letter to the school superintendent explaining that the school district's dress policy must be enforced equally. Because the policy allows students to wear skirts, all students -- not just girls -- should be able to wear skirts that comply with the policy, ACLU-NJ argued.

The ACLU-NJ also insisted hat Coviello's decision to wear skirts was expressive conduct that is protected by the First Amendment. At a meeting last week, the district agreed that Michael would be allowed to wear skirts in the future.

"This is the right outcome," said Jeanne LoCicero, the ACLU-NJ staff attorney who handled the case.

"Michael is courageous for challenging the school policy by defying societal norms and for standing up to protest a senseless, discriminatory school policy."

The Hasbrouck Heights high school student-parent handbook states, "Shorts may only be worn from September 1 to October 1 and from April 15 to the close of school. Dresses, skirts or shorts must be appropriate in length. The principal or his/her designee will determine appropriate length. The principal or his/her designee may extend these dates on a day-to-day basis if weather becomes unseasonably hot."

The handbook also says, "The principal or his/her designee is responsible for determining the appropriateness of a pupil's attire."

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