Members of the girls' track and field team at Albany High School in New York were suspended after launching a petition calling out "gender biased dress codes."
While school officials insist the suspensions were not related to their activism — instead pointing to alleged "vulgar language" used at a school event — the female athletes insist otherwise.
The ordeal began last week when Albany's athletic director, Ashley Chapple, asked several members of the Falcons to leave practice for wearing sports bras instead of shirts, according to The Albany Times Union. They complied but the following day one sprinter launched an online petition — "Stop Gender Biased Dress Codes: Allow the Girls Track Team to wear Sports Bras."
Sophomore Jordan Johnson explained that Chapple advised them to cover up, "because there were male coaches around." At issue is that their male counterparts were allowed to train shirtless.
"The athletic administration staff is attempting to exclude us from our sport as a result of the misinterpretation of the dress code," the Change.org petition reads. "We’re being punished for practicing in sports bras in the presence of male coaches, while the boys team was asked nicely to put shirts back on and was not punished."
On Thursday they returned to attend a lacrosse game only to be turned away by Chapple and several school security guards. The following day 13 of the 15 girls on the track team were suspended.
They have argued that this was because of the petition launched; however, Ron Lesko, director of communications and operations for the Albany school district, said in a statement that the athletes were disciplined for "inappropriate and disrespectful behavior directed toward an administrator."
This, track team member Alexis Arango insisted, was not true.
"We were loud, but we did not swear," Arango said. "No one was cursing. We were loud because we were outside."
On Saturday, Chapple hand-delivered letters to each suspended athlete explaining that their suspension was due to their allegedly foul language at the lacrosse game and that each penalized girl "poses a continuing danger to persons or property or an ongoing threat of disruption to the academic and athletic process," according to the report.
On Monday, at an on-campus meeting that track team members' parents were allegedly barred from attending, principal Jodi Commerford specified that the track team members had been suspended because of wearing sports bras and for attempting to attend the lacrosse game.
Lesko forwarded a statement from Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams to the Times Union which stated that members of the Albany High School girls’ track and field team "served a suspension Friday due to inappropriate and disrespectful behavior directed toward an administrator."
"Their suspension was in no way related to wardrobe. It was entirely related to their inappropriate conduct, and in alignment with our Student Code of Conduct," the statement read.
According to reports, 12 of the student athletes have been reinstated and Adams said that "members of the girls’ track and field team have agreed to participate on the committee that reviews the Student Code of Conduct for next school year. That work will include a review of the sections related to student attire."
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