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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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."