Like many students, Ashlyn Mroz carefully selected her outfit for the first day of school. After rifling through her wardrobe, the sophomore, who attends Glenbard East High School in Lombard, Illinois, soon settled on a black tank top and jeans that she often wore the previous year.
Mroz was halfway through lunch with friends when the school's new dean came up to her and issued a dress code violation for showing her bare shoulders.
“It was really embarrassing. She came up to me at my lunch table in front of everyone and said it very loudly. I thought that it was ridiculous that I was dress coded on my first day back to school for something that I wore all last year," Mroz told TODAY Style.
The 15-year-old is one of several female students at the Illinois school who were cited for wearing tank tops on Aug. 14. School officials say the style goes against the dress code policy, but many students and parents think the sudden change is unfair.
"Ashlyn wore similar tank tops last year with no issue, and the dress code does not specifically address strap width on tank tops," Mroz's mother, Donna Mroz, told TODAY Style.
Her mother also mentioned that she didn't receive a call that day, even though parents are supposed to be notified of dress code violations, according to the school's handbook.
The sophomore mostly takes issue with how the rules are enforced, saying that the boys and girls at her school weren't being treated equally.
"It made me really mad that boys who were wearing tank tops and muscle shirts didn’t get dress coded on Wednesday. It was obvious that they were singling out the girls,” she said.
After being cited for the dress code violation, Mroz said school officials told her she needed to wear an orange shirt to cover up, but she refused.
Chloe Lynch, a junior at the school, was also told to cover up that same day.
"When the dean approached me, she told me I was going to be dress coded, because of my shoulders being exposed. I had never had an issue with this before, so I respectfully asked why this was being enforced on the first day of school without any warning," Lynch told TODAY Style. "She told me it was due to boys looking at me, and boys looking at other girls."
Confused, Lynch asked the dean to clarify her statement.
"I proceeded to ask her why that was my issue, why it was my priority to make sure boys weren't looking at me. I never got a clear answer, it was just implied that boys have provocative mindsets, and it's a distraction to them. I have no issues with dress code policies, however, when it's not being enforced on both sides equally it's just one thing: discrimination."
The school's principal Shahe Bagdasarian told TODAY Style that all students are expected to follow the dress code: "The dress code is intended to support a positive teaching and learning environment. It was not our intent to shame or embarrass any student when addressing the expectations. We apologize to any student who felt shamed or embarrassed as a result of our actions."
Now that many students and parents have brought forward concerns about the dress code, Bagdasarian said the administration is reviewing its options. "This has prompted us to review our Glenbard East handbook and practices. We are committed to moving ahead with a review process that allows for voices to be heard, perspectives to be respected and a result that ensures equity in the educational setting. We have always and will continue to welcome Glenbard East stakeholders to assist us in empowering our students," he said.
Since last week, the administration has hosted an assembly for students to address the issue, and will host a school board meeting Monday night. Mroz's mother plans to attend and said she hopes to get the opportunity to share her perspective.