New York High School SUSPENDS 13 Female Athletes Who Started Petition To Wear Sports Bras During Training

High school sports teams are supposed to be somewhere that students can build confidence, life skills, and develop as athletes.

For one girl’s track and field team in Albany NY, the usual athletic experience has been overshadowed by something much more controversial: the dress code policy.

Dress code policies vary

Dress code policies for students tend to vary by school board and school district.

Kids in classroom, one boy leans back stretching in his desk
Photo Credit: Andy Barbour / Pexels
Photo Credit: Andy Barbour / Pexels

In recent years, more and more students have had their academic experience interrupted by dress code violations that result in disciplinary action.

A New York high school is facing backlash for suspending the girl’s track team

A New York high school is under fire online after they suspended the majority of the girl’s track team following an incident over the dress code.

People's feet in a line all wearing running shoes at start line for track and field
Photo Credit: Snapwire / Pexels
Photo Credit: Snapwire / Pexels

The girls are all students attending Albany High school.

The boy’s track team practices shirtless

With increasing temperatures, the students recently shifted to practicing outdoors.

Young man running in marathon wearing bright yellow tank top cut and ripped to expose more chest
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels

The boy’s track team began practicing shirtless which motivated the girl’s team to ask the school’s athletic director if they could practice in their lycra crop tops or sports bras.

The girl’s track team requested to practice in sports bras but were rejected

Unfortunately, the girls did not get the response they were hoping for.

Girl wearing sports bra, sneakers, and shorts to go running
Photo Credit: JÉSHOOTS / Pexels
Photo Credit: JÉSHOOTS / Pexels

The athletic director for the Albany school district, a woman named Ashley Chapple, felt that the sports bra attire would be too inappropriate.

The girls were told their sports bras would be distracting for male coaches

According to sophomore sprinter Jordan Johnson, after practice one day Chappel confronted the female students about “wearing sports bras” adding that they couldn’t wear the clothing “because we have male coaches.”

Arcadia, CA - April 08: Girls prepare for the 4x800 Invitational run during the Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High School in Arcadia
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The sports bras were described as “distracting.”

The girls were shut down completely

In response, the girls’ track and field team pointed out that the boys’ team was able to practice completely shirtless.

Young men running shirtless around track
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels
Photo Credit: RUN 4 FFWPU / Pexels

Despite their argument, they were still shut down.

Anyone who arrived to practice in a sports bra was asked to leave

The following week, any female athletes who arrived to practice in a sports bra were asked to leave the session.

Women wearing sports bra in fitness room gym
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

The athletes complied with the rules but decided to create a petition to “protest the gender-biased dress code.”

The track team pushed back and created a petition to gain public support

A sophomore sprinter from the girl’s Albany High track team named Jordan Johnson created the team’s protest on the popular petition website Change.org.

High school women's track team wearing shorts and sports bras
Photo Credit: Change.org
Photo Credit: Change.org

The petition was shared on Change.org

The petition starts with “Support the Albany high girls track team as we protest the gender-biased dress code.”

Girls running in school track and field
Photo Credit: Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

It continues “The athletic administration staff is attempting to exclude us from our sport as a result of the misinterpretation of the dress code.”

The campaign racked up tens of thousands of signatures

Johnson’s post ends with “We’re being punished for practicing in sports bras in the presence of male coaches, while the boy’s team was asked nicely to put shirts back on and was not punished.”

Screen shot from Change.org of petition from high school women's track team
Photo Credit: Change.org
Photo Credit: Change.org

The petition has racked up over 51K signatures with a goal of 75K.

Commenters supported the student-athletes

Comments left on the Change.org petition lean strongly in support of the young female athletes.

Comments from Change.org petition for high school track team
Photo Credit: Change.org
Photo Credit: Change.org

Some people felt the double-standard was an example of “sexism at its finest” and others expressed that any male coaches who are “distracted” by student-athletes shouldn’t be in an educator’s position.

Members of the girl’s track team were banned from entering a school sports game

Almost overnight, the petition started gaining traction and support.

Men playing lacrosse
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Photo Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

The same week that some of the female athletes were asked to leave their practice, other girls from the same track team were met by Chapple and security when they attended a school lacrosse game and prevented from entering.

The next day 13 members of the girls’ track team were suspended

Following the lacrosse game incident, 13 members of the girls’ track and field team were suspended from school.

Person signing letter
Photo Credit: Pixabay / Pexels
Photo Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

That weekend, each athlete received a hand-delivered letter explaining their suspension, written by Chapple.

The girls were accused of using vulgar language

The letters from the athletic director accused the girls of using vulgar language during the confrontation at the lacrosse game.

Albany High school athletic field aerial view
Photo Credit: Google Maps
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Chapple claimed that their inappropriate behavior at the school sports event was grounds for suspension but the girls told a different story.

The athletes spoke to the local paper to defend themselves

Student-athletes Johnson, Kayla Huba, and Alexis Arango spoke to The Times-Union to set the record straight on what happened at the lacrosse game.

Person holding newspaper
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Photo Credit: Kaboompics .com / Pexels

The girls adamantly stated that no foul language was used and defended themselves against the accusation.

“We were loud because we were outside”

Track team member Alexis Arango set out to clear their names, telling The Times-Union “We were loud, but we did not swear. No one was cursing.”

Students stand near school bleachers at a varsity sports game
Photo Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Adding, “We were loud because we were outside.”

There was no vulgar language used

The girls remain adamant that “No one was saying anything bad. There may have been voices raised, but there was no vulgar language said.”

Woman explaining to other woman with clipboard
Photo Credit: ANTONI SHKRABA / Pexels
Photo Credit: ANTONI SHKRABA / Pexels

However, a spokesperson for the school has said the opposite.

The district superintendent said the suspension was not related to wardrobe

The school district’s superintendent, Kaweeda G. Adams, said that the girls’ suspension was “in no way related to wardrobe.”

Front view of school outdoors
Photo Credit: Pixabay / Pexels
Photo Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

Instead, “It was entirely related to their inappropriate conduct, and in alignment with our Student Code of Conduct.”

The school principal admitted the truth

However, Albany high athletes Arango and Huba said that the principal of the school, Jodi Commerford, told them something different.

Woman running in sports bra
Photo Credit: RF._.studio / Pexels
Photo Credit: RF._.studio / Pexels

Despite all the media attention surrounding the petition and suspension, Principal Commerford seemed to cut right to the chase.

The suspension was related to the sports bras

Commerford allegedly told the girls that the team members were in fact suspended because of their sports bras, and for attempting to attend the lacrosse game.

Paige Hathaway is seen on June 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California
Photo Credit: TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Photo Credit: TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

There was no mention of vulgar language.

The girls were told they were a “continuing danger” to the academic process

According to the suspended athletes who received letters from Chapple, the final paragraph was the part students especially took issue with.

Starting blocks painted on track and field track
Photo Credit: Lukas Hartmann / Pexels
Photo Credit: Lukas Hartmann / Pexels

The last paragraph states that each girl ‘poses a continuing danger to persons or property.”

“An ongoing threat of disruption to the academic and athletic process”

Additionally, the letter claims that the female student-athletes are “an ongoing threat of disruption to the academic and athletic process.”

Junk mail letters scattered on table
Photo Credit: Earth Day Initiative via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Earth Day Initiative via Getty Images

Students and parents were understandably angered by the way the whole situation was handled.

People on Twitter were angry with the story

People on Twitter reacted with outrage when they read that the girl’s team had been suspended.

Tweet: Checks calendar. Yep. It's 2022. And this is still happening.
Photo Credit: @Kenneth43082301/ @swalneck / Twitter
Photo Credit: @Kenneth43082301/ @swalneck / Twitter

Users were quick to point out how “hypocritical and sexist” the policy was and how exhausting it is to still be having this conversation in 2022.

Social media was full of support for the student-athletes

Most commenters could at least agree on the fact that the issue remains female students are often treated differently than male students and held to different standards.

Tweet: The girls' track team and parents support the coaches (male and female).  The coaches did nothing to provoke this.  This is about girls being treated differently than boys.  I am very proud of the track team and how they advocated for each other.
Photo Credit: @dd_martinelli / Twitter
Photo Credit: @dd_martinelli / Twitter

Especially when it comes to school dress codes.

What is the school really teaching the students?

One user drew attention to how the school was actually teaching the young female athletes negative lessons about their place in society.

Tweet: It's always great when our schools teach young women about: Sexist double standards
Retaliation for speaking up
Pettiness
The need to consider the male gaze at all times
The occasional scarcity of common sense and good judgement

Well done Albany High School!
Photo Credit: @bobtheretired / Twitter
Photo Credit: @bobtheretired / Twitter

The school’s athletic director continues to face backlash over the decision to expel the girls.

An on-campus meeting was held

After the suspension and petition drama, the school staff reportedly organized an on-campus meeting with Albany school district officials.

A meeting of the Colorado Springs District 11 School Board in large board room
Photo Credit: Chet Strange for The Washington Post via Getty Images (Not the actual photo)
Photo Credit: Chet Strange for The Washington Post via Getty Images (Not the actual photo)

But the parents of the track members at the center of the issue said they were not permitted to attend the meeting.

Sports bras were the main issue

At the meeting, it’s said that Principal Jodi Commerford established that the track team members were suspended as a result of wearing their sports bras.

Portrait of a woman in sportswear running while modelling an Apple Watch Sport
Photo Credit: Joseph Branston/Future via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Joseph Branston/Future via Getty Images

Also, for later trying to attend the school’s lacrosse game while they were facing disciplinary action.

Two students didn’t face any disciplinary action

In all the chaos, there were two female students who didn’t face any disciplinary action because they didn’t wear the controversial sports bra tops.

Mackenzie Browne of North wins the girls 800 meter run with a time of 2:08.66 during the 102nd CIF State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Those two students were permitted to participate in a local track competition that same week.

The two athletes who competed didn’t score a single point

The two girls who competed in the Shenendehowa Invitational track event were unfortunately not able to score a single point without the support of their team.

Sydnie Vanek of Clovis leaps in the girls long jump during the 102nd CIF State Track and Field Championships
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

It’s likely they were also weighed down by the negativity surrounding their very public situation.

The students have been reinstated

The following week it was reported that twelve of the student-athletes had been reinstated.

The Arcadia Invitational Track and Field meet at Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California.
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The school district’s superintendent, Kaweeda G. Adams revealed that “members of the girls’ track and field team have agreed to participate on the committee that reviews the Student Code of Conduct for next school year. That work will include a review of the sections related to student attire.”