According to a ThinkProgress report on Tuesday, a Louisiana principal said a transgender student's yearbook photo violated the Southwood High School dress code. The school pulled the senior student's photo out of the yearbook only two weeks before it would've been sent to pupils, according to ThinkProgress. But the website shared a link to the Southwood High dress code and it's remarkably gender-neutral. In fact, there's no mention of how boys and girls are supposed to dress.
Still, the school's principal Jeff Roberts told ThinkProgress that transgender student Kami Pham's photo could not be included in the yearbook because she's wearing "feminine attire." Roberts also took issue with Pham's wig in her photos. The justification he gave for his decision to keep Pham out of the school's yearbook was that the student had dressed out of accordance with her birth certificate.
But, as mentioned before, Southwood High School's dress code manual doesn't have any specific content on gender-appropriate clothing. There is no section on how male and female students should dress. What the guide does mention is that hair accessories can't be destructive to the high school's property, that zero "sagging" is allowed, that sunglasses on campus are a no-go, and other gender-neutral points. The manual also specifies that students cannot show their midriffs or wear transparent clothes, tank tops, halter tops, and cutoffs. No holes in your shirt or pants either. But a look at Pham's photos show that she's not violating any of these rules. The student can be seen donning a pink polo shirt, a pair of jeans, and a wig.
This won't be the first time that a school has taken down or pulled a student's photo from appearing alongside their classmates. In 2014, ThinkProgress reported on the Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School in San Francisco. The report said that the school wiped one of its student's photo from the school yearbook because she was wearing a suit. Later on, the Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School responded to criticism and said, "These events have sparked a campus-wide dialogue which will result in a revision of policy."
In Pham's case, she is receiving the support and solidarity of her friends. There's already a Change.org petition in her name which was created by fellow students at Southwood High School. The open letter to potential supporters of the petition says that Pham is part of the school's National Honor Society and a Southwood Art Club member and that she very much wants to be part of the school's yearbook. The signatories said that being included in the yearbook would be a meaningful achievement for the senior.
The signatories of the petition also wrote what they wanted from the school.
We hope to achieve for Kami the ability to walk across the stage in any way [s]he chooses to, and for the same for students throughout Caddo Parish. We also demand that Kami be allowed in our yearbook, as well as on our senior wall, as well as a formal apology from Jeff Roberts for discriminating and violating the first amendment rights of a student and abusing his authority as principal.
For now, there's only silence from the school's principal as well as the Caddo Parish School Board but things could change for Pham on April 24. According to ThinkProgress, she is scheduled to meet with the school's board. In the meantime, Pham and her friend Tatjana Cotton will be rallying for the transgender student's cause. "If you are a Southwood student, Kami and I will be passing out stickers that you can wear to show support," Cotton wrote on the Change.org petition website.