By Lauren Rearick
On Friday, September 6, a student-athlete with Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, had every reason to celebrate: She secured a first-place finish during a state championship swim meet. But the win was short-lived, as a referee soon after disqualified her, alleging that her swimwear showed too much skin.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the meet referee made their decision based on the way the student’s swimsuit had risen in the back. Anchorage Daily News noted that swimsuits commonly bunch into a “swimmer’s wedgie” after the conclusion of a swim, given that the effort required to race in a swim meet involves considerable body movement. The student’s coach, Lauren Langford, had appealed the disqualification at the meet, but the appeal was denied, KTVA reported.
In a subsequent Medium post, Langford explained that the entire team was wearing the same school-approved swimsuit, so people were confused by the disqualification. Additionally, the team had worn the same swimsuit to three prior meets, and had received no violations at each event, CBS News reported.
Langford’s Medium post also alleged there was more to the disqualification. She said that the student was “targeted for the way the suit fit her curvier, fuller-figured body,” as well as her race and skin tone. “These young swimmers aren’t being punished for wearing their suits in scandalous or provocative ways, but rather, because their ample hips, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates.”
KTVA reported that because of Langford’s post, the Anchorage School District started its own investigation into the ruling, and on Tuesday evening, it called the referee’s decision “heavy-handed and unnecessary.”
“The Anchorage School District has concluded that our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body,” the district wrote.
The district had interviewed multiple people for its investigation and presented its results to the Alaska School Activities Association. The association then reversed the disqualification, telling Anchorage Daily News that the referee failed to notify the coach of the dress code violation before disqualifying the student. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the school district has asked the association to take away the referee’s certificate to ref and it wants a “less-ambiguous” swimsuit dress code instituted.
This is hardly the first time that students have faced discriminatory dress code violations. In May, Houston’s James Madison High School came under fire for a dress code that some accused of targeting black families, and in January, a student at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School in Little Rock started #PasstheSkirt, a nationwide protest that challenged dress codes which specify lengths for items like skirts and dresses.
MTV News has reached out to Anchorage School District for comment.