Parent questions school bathing suit policy

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“She had come to me and … told me that girls had to wear shirts over their swimsuits. And she asked me, why don’t the boys have to wear them?”

Alicia Adams | 623-2120 | @aliciaadamsSRPG | aadams@srpressgazette.com

PACE — A parent of an S.S. Dixon Intermediate School student is concerned about a school-enforced policy that she finds discriminatory to females.

Hailei Smead is the mother of a fifth-grader at Dixon, an elementary school in Pace. She said her daughter was invited to a school-sanctioned pool party for high-performing students.

“She had come to me and … told me that girls had to wear shirts over their swimsuits,” Smead said. “And she asked me, why don’t the boys have to wear them?”

Smead asked her daughter’s teacher, who confirmed that boys have the option to go without a shirt; girls have to wear a tankini — a two-piece bathing suit with a top that covers the stomach — or a T-shirt.

“My suggestion, which I voiced to the vice principal and the principal, was just … across the board, all students must wear a shirt when they’re participating in a water activity,” Smead said. “You can’t just single them out because they are females.

“Who’s to say that boys won’t lose their swim trunks when jumping off a diving board? Shirts should just be worn by both.”

According to the superintendent of Santa Rosa County Schools, Tim Wyrosdick, this is the first he heard of Smead’s concern.

“I am mind-boggled that a parent would reach out to a newspaper before calling the superintendent,” he said. “I had no idea. This hasn’t risen to my level at all.”

Wyrosdick said that as far as he knows, this is a common practice at elementary schools.

April Martin, director of elementary schools in Santa Rosa County, said that a note was sent home to parents in advance stating that girls wearing a bikini to school events need to wear a shirt.

“Especially with fifth-grade girls, we don’t want anyone exposed,” Martin said.

The water-related events occurred over several days, and Martin said they did not get a parent complaint until the third day of the events.

“Had Mom called in advance when she got the letter and read it, we could have said, ‘Not a big deal for us, we don’t have any reason we can’t ask everyone to put a shirt on,’” Martin said. “She called after it was too late, and we’re not going to do that on day three.”

According to Martin, the principal informed Smead that everyone would be instructed to wear a T-shirt for these events next year.

“We do try to be consistent and fair,” Martin said. “When parents bring things to our attention, whether it [is] to the school or to myself, we look at it and [ask] if it’s reasonable or if it is something we do need to look at doing.

“We see this as reasonable.”

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