On Sept. 11, it was announced at the daily meeting of the cross-country team that student athletes, both male and female, are not allowed to take off their shirts.
There was no policy implemented on the athletes concerning what they wore while running until recently, when a few girls were told to put their shirts on while on a run during practice. The girls had on their sports bras.
Some girls on the team were not happy with what they believed to be an unfair standard, since the boys had been allowed to keep their shirts off on multiple occasions, including during practices over the summer and the day that the girls were asked to put on their shirts.
“It was one of the hotter days, and the girls took off their shirts just like the guys do every day and I heard Mr. Reeves tell them to take their shirts and put them back on,” senior Kailey Schuyler said, who is a second-year member of the cross-country team.
In Schuyler’s opinion, this was unfair towards the girls on the team.
“When I saw this I was confused and then enraged. If a guy can take off his shirt during practice, why can’t a girl? I saw it as an act of sexism,” she said.
Cross-country Coach Ken Reeves said that he told the girls to put on their shirts because he heard comments towards them from people driving and walking by that he deemed inappropriate while they were running with only sports bras on.
Due to this, Reeves said he thought it was safer to have the girls put their shirts back on.
It was then brought to the administration’s attention when an athlete thought there was gender inequality on the team, and wanted the issue to be addressed.
Reeves then made the decision to implement a rule for all athletes on the team that followed the school’s dress code policy, which states that showing undergarments and midriffs is not permitted during all school activities, after the administration pointed out that all students are required to follow the dress code.
Cross-country athletes are now required to wear shirts and running shorts during practices. The beach volleyball and indoor volleyball teams, however, wear spandex that are shorter than mid-thigh and do not comply with the school dress code policy.
“I’ve never had a uniform rule until it was dictated that this is a school policy,” Reeves said.
Reeves said he did not see an issue with what students were wearing while running until inappropriate comments was made to the girls. But because of the team dynamic, he believes in the end, a solution that benefits the team as a whole is what really matters.
“Team situations always develop where somebody wants this, somebody wants that,” he said. “But in the scope of the team we have to give up some of our individuality to benefit the team.”
“In every other school in the district, there is a boys’ team and there is a girls’ team. We are the only team that is unified. So at Ventura or Buena, there are guy rules and there are girl rules,” Reeves said. “Here, because the girls asked for equality and within the scope of the school dress code, you have to have the equality.”
At Buena High, boys on the cross-country team are allowed to run shirtless on their team and the girls are allowed to run with sports bras on the girls’ team, according to fourth-year runner Andrew Witt. He said that the girls run without shirts “a lot less than the guys” do.
At Ventura High, boys are also allowed to run shirtless, according to team captain and fourth-year runner Garrett Reynolds. Although at Ventura, the girls do not run with only sports bras on, according to third-year runner Lizzie Fedde.
“The only policy is that we wear shirts, we can wear any type of shorts. But [girls’ cross-country Coach] Biller never told us that we must wear shirts, it’s kind of understood,” Fedde said.
Next year, a solution is already in mind for Reeves. He said the practice clothes might be a part of the athlete’s spirit pack. A spirit pack is generally clothing that the athletes wear to promote their team.
Principal Joe Bova believes that because of the school dress code, the athletes should not have been taking their shirts off in the first place due to not only school regulations, but their safety as well.
Parents had complained to Bova about the girls running in their sports bras in the past, along with inappropriate comments being made. Bova stated that this is the reasoning behind Reeves’ new policy.
“That’s why he asked them to put their shirts back on that day. Kind of a short-term fix until they could talk about it a little more,” he said. “I got involved because the question came to me about the dress code.”
Bova sees this issue as a distraction to the team during this season.
“Me being a political science major jokingly called this the Bra-Gate, because it’s the big controversy,” Bova said. “But I am unsure if it’s still an issue or not, but it was definitely a distraction.”
Bova said that he would rather have the community know that Foothill does not let girls run with only sports bras, rather than vice versa.
“If I see an article in the newspaper [and] in a headline and it says ‘Foothill High School tells girls they cannot run in public with only sports bras,’ do I want that article in the paper? Or do I want the headline that says ‘Foothill allows girls to run in sports bras in the community?’” he said.
Student-athlete reactions varied: some did not care about the new requirements, others were happy to see a real policy enforced, while a few were angered that they could no longer take off their shirts during practice.
Maizie Anders, a sophomore and second year-runner on the team, believed that there was an unfair standard toward the girls on the team.
“Girls have felt like they haven’t been allowed to take their shirts off on multiple occasions while boys have,” she said. “My position on it was that I just wanted to see something in writing, to see what are the exact rules.”
Anders, along with other girls on the team, is happy to see an equal policy on the team.
“Whether or not a person on the team wants to take their shirt off when they run, if boys should be able to do it, girls should be too,” she said. “I think this cause is worth fighting for and it is a bigger deal than it is made out to be.”
Anders feels as though the situation is resolved at the moment, but will become an issue again. She thinks a real resolution for Foothill will come from a district-wide policy concerning what athletes can and cannot wear while practicing.
“It’s resolved for now but I mean people have said ‘oh it’s going to go away soon’ and that is because there is no written policy [directly for athletes],” she said. “But it’s also a district wide issue as well. If you look at other cities [in the district] where it get’s really hot, girls always have their shirts off and are running in sports bras, and that’s totally fine.”
“It seems like there’s a stigma in Ventura that it’s wrong or that it creates a bad image for girls,” she said. “And so I think that there should be a district-wide dress code policy for athletes.”
Anders hopes to take it even further than the district.
“In fact I am in Youth and Government and it came up there. So I had a bill idea to implant a state-wide policy for an equality kind of thing on teams,” she said. “To make sure people aren’t treated differently depending on gender on what they can and cannot wear.”
On the other hand, other athletes on the team do not see this as an issue.
Junior Manish Manwani thinks that it was primarily for the girls’ protection that they were told to put their shirts back on.
“I’m pretty sure coach just did it for their own protection,” Manwani said. “But not letting the whole team take off their shirts anymore; I’m not a big fan of it, but I guess it’s for our own safety.”
Junior Jared Rodriguez sees the situation as something small.
“Honestly, it’s not a big deal. Yeah, it kind of sucks because we’re going to be all sweaty after practice, like our shirts are, and we’re going to have to put them back on, but all in all it’s not that big of a deal,” he said.
“We still train together, being mad over that little thing is not worth it,” Rodriguez said. “If the girls can’t do it, I guess it’s fair that we can’t.”
A boy who is a member of the cross-country team, and who wished to remain anonymous, has a different opinion regarding the policy.
“I honestly hate it, especially when it was really warm in September, we went to Arroyo to run hills and it was super hot yet we weren’t allowed to take off our shirts,” he said. “I’m a little mad about it because I usually run shirtless but I guess rules are rules.”
Cross-country members interviewed said that they have seen some boys on the team running with their shirts off during practice, despite the new policy.
“Yeah, some people do run shirtless but only for a little while. When they are far enough so Reeves doesn’t know. But I really think he is more concerned about the girls running shirtless because we [the boys] always did before the policy, but they were never allowed to,” the anonymous source said.
Schuyler, as well as senior and second-year runner Haley Gustafson, also said that she has seen boys running shirtless, but Schuyler is not sure if Reeves has seen them doing so.
“I have seen guys shirtless since the rule was implemented. Every practice there are boys running shirtless,” Schuyler said.
“I don’t know if Reeves has seen the boys running without their shirts, so he couldn’t enforce it. But I have definitely seen boys running without their shirt,” she said.
However, junior Anna-Kate Levesque, along with senior Bryce Kulzer, said they have not seen any boys running without their shirts on.
“So far what I’ve seen, they’ve been following the standards,” Levesque said.
Featured Photo Credit: Chloey Settles/The Foothill Dragon Press