A Cottonwood (Calif.) fifth-grader and her family challenged a decades-old tradition and won this week.
Rachel Manfredini, an 11-year-old student at West Cottonwood School, was benched by her school’s basketball coach in a game Tuesday for not wearing a dress to school.
Initially, West Cottonwood staff argued that all athletes must dress formally on days of home games, specifying that female athletes have to wear either a dress or a skirt — neither of which Rachel is comfortable with.
But after Rachel’s story was broadcast on KRCR TV, and her mother, Kimberly Schaal, raised the issue to her school board and superintendent, the school modified its stance on what’s considered “formal attire” for female athletes, superintendent Doug Geren said.
Geren said from now on, girls can either wear dresses or skirts, or slacks and a blouse.
“The superintendent apologized to me for this happening to Rachel and assured me that it will not be an issue for future students,” Schaal said after a Wednesday meeting with Geren.
Schaal said her daughter had been issued warnings earlier in the season for not wearing a dress or skirt to school but added that her daughter had been asking for an alternative to the dress code for weeks.
“My daughter was 100 percent willing and wanting to be given another option,” Schaal said. “Because she probably would’ve worn just about anything besides a dress or a skirt.”
Earlier in the week, Geren said the dress code was more of a tradition than a policy, saying its purpose was “teaching the kids a little bit of respect and responsibility.”
Schaal said she was surprised to get so much pushback from the school initially, saying teachers and staff members refused to budge and even singled out her daughter, alienating her to the point of tears after a team meeting.