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Teen girls at Maryland high school fight back after finding list ranking their looks

A group of girls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland have made a powerful bid to change the school's culture after discovering a list that graded them based on their looks.
/ Source: TODAY

A group of girls at a Maryland high school is taking a stand after discovering that some male students created and circulated a list ranking them by their looks.

Eighteen senior girls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School have turned the painful moment into a chance to change what they described as an environment of misogyny and sexual harassment at the school, which is just outside Washington, D.C.

"We need to be the generation that basically says this is enough and that we're gonna start change,'' senior Yasmin Behbehani told TODAY's Morgan Radford. "And that starts with working together to send a message globally."

Earlier this month, a list that was created a year ago resurfaced via text messages, ranking the 18 girls in the school's International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme by their looks. The list featured their names with a rating from 5.5 to 9.4, with decimal points to the hundredth place.

Behbehani told Radford she has struggled to overcome body image issues, and this only added to her anxiety.

"It was hurtful to me because I kind of was thinking, 'Why am I not worthy enough to be a higher number?''' she said. "But at the end of the day, I realized that I define who I am."

"Knowing that my friends, my closest peers in my community, had created that list felt like the ultimate betrayal,'' senior Lee Schwartz told Radford. "That I could hang out with them every day and talk to them but, under that, I was still a number."

School officials said they took unspecified disciplinary action against the boys who created the list.

That wasn't enough for the girls, who organized a meeting on March 8, International Women's Day. The meeting was attended by administrators and about 80 students, The Washington Post reported. They confronted the boys involved in the list, including the 18-year-old senior said to have created it.

"So a lot of girls shared personal experiences with sexual harassment and misogyny and just the degradation that they face every single day,'' senior Annabelle Kim told Radford.

"It’s just a different time and things really do need to change," the male student who created the list told The Washington Post on condition of anonymity. "This memory is not going to leave me anytime soon."

A coed group of seniors has since met almost weekly following that initial meeting. They also want to change the school's culture for future classes, so they are meeting with younger students next month to speak about toxic masculinity.

"I've felt very proud that they are being vulnerable and being really, really courageous in sharing their stories,'' Bethesda-Chevy Chase principal Donna Redmond Jones said on TODAY.