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Dress code debate: Is the 'fingertips rule' unfair?

A Tennessee high school student's longtime battle for a new and improved dress code has finally paid off.
/ Source: TODAY

A Tennessee high school student's longtime battle for a new and improved dress code has finally paid off.

Now students in Knox County can wear their shorts a little bit shorter. The school district previously required that hemlines of shorts, skirts and dresses hit fingertip length or longer, but the new dress code, approved on April 5, states that those garments need only be mid-thigh length.

The change happened after a student launched an online petition claiming the dress code unfairly targeted female students.

Hollie Sikes, a student at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., created the petition in August 2016, and has been pushing the school district to take note of her concerns since then.

"We cannot ignore the simple truth that clothing stores do not sell a wide variety of shorts for girls that are below fingertip length, if any, so young women are forced to wear long pants and jeans in 90-100 degree weather simply to avoid suspension," she wrote in the petition. "Not only does this present health risks, such as nausea, overheating and even fainting, but it promotes victim blaming in the (unfortunately, extremely prevalent) case of sexual harassment among students."

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The new dress code was discussed and approved at an April 5 school board meeting.

"I just want to remind folks in the audience how we got here with this dress code," board member Lynne Fugate said during the meeting. "In September, we had a student, Hollie Sikes, come before the board with some suggestions of changing the dress code ... The biggest concerns were the length of shorts, the equitable enforcement of dress code for males and females, and that teachers have to follow the same dress code as the students."

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A representative for the school district told TODAY in an email that the district agreed to adjust the dress code for students, but will not make teachers follow the same rules.

Either way, the decision raises a good point: Is it time to ban the "fingertip length" rule? With warmer weather on the horizon and more incidents appearing to spark debates about dress codes, it appears discussions about what students should and shouldn't be permitted to wear are far from over.