Fla. school agrees to appeals process for yearbook photo dress code

A female high school student who was not allowed to wear unisex ormale clothing in her yearbook photograph has settled a lawsuit against aHillsborough County school.

Under the settlement announced May 10,Robinson High School can enforce its dress code for seniors’ yearbook portraits,but administrators must create an appeals process so that students can seek anexemption.

Nikki Youngblood and her mother sued the Hillsborough CountySchool District in June 2002 after Kevin McCarthy, the then-principal ofRobinson High School, refused to make an exception to the yearbook photo dresscode for Youngblood. The lawsuit claimed the school’s policy was discriminatoryand that the school violated Youngblood’s rights to free expression and equalprotection.

According to the lawsuit, the dress code mandated that maleswear “business or professional clothing” and females wear a “scoop-neckeddrape.” Youngblood asked administrators if she could wear a shirt, jacket andtie instead of the drape because she felt uncomfortable in “stereotypicallyfemale clothing,” the lawsuit stated.

McCarthy refused, and the photo wasnever taken.

A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, andYoungblood appealed to a federal appeals court. That court granted a request formediation.

Youngblood was pleased with the terms of thesettlement.

“I’m just happy that no other female student will have to beexcluded from her senior yearbook just because she doesn’t want to conform tosomeone else’s gender stereotypes,” Youngblood said. “All along my goal has beento make sure that no other student has to go through what I did. With thissettlement, I believe we have achieved that goal.”