Controversial wardrobe violation costs Anchorage high school swimmer victory
The Anchorage School District is reviewing the disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer at a home meet on Friday after news of the controversial call made waves on the internet over the weekend.
The student athlete earned a victory at the meet, but was then disqualified over a "wardrobe violation."
Local youth coach and competitive athlete Lauren Langford wrote about the incident in a blog post that quickly gained traction and drew outrage.
The student, she wrote, was wearing the same uniform issued to every girl on the team, yet was the only athlete disqualified.
"This comes after more than a year of tension regarding the fit of suits worn by athletes at youth swim meets in the state of Alaska," she wrote. "If the suit was issued by her team in accordance with national standards and she was wearing it as directed without prohibited modifications then why was she disqualified?"
Langford believes the particular student and her family have been targeted, and that race is a factor in the disparate treatment she received.
"They are being targeted not because they are wearing their suits to be scandalous, thus inspiring immorality among other young people, but rather because their ample hips, tiny waists, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates," the blog post reads.
The suit is sized with the goal of fitting snugly for racing by the manufacturer, the post explains. In an interview Monday, Langford said the issue the girl was punished for had nothing to do with performance or gaining a competitive edge, but rather the subjective concept of modesty.
“If you buy a suit for 70 girls, unless you have each individual suit tailored to fit, it’s going to fit every single body differently," she said.
The meet at Dimond High School on Friday was not the first of the season. There had already been three others in which the team did not receive any disqualifications related to the dress code.
The Anchorage School District released the following statement Monday:
ASD is reviewing the disqualification of a student athlete during the September 6 Dimond High School home swim meet. The disqualification appears to stem from a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the rules governing high school swim uniforms. Immediately after the disqualification, the Dimond HS swim coach filed a protest with the official to contest the decision. The coach’s protest was quickly denied at the meet, and we expect the coach to appeal. We intend to gather all the facts surrounding the disqualification so we can accurately address the matter with officials and take appropriate action to ensure fair, equitable competition and consistent application of the rules for this athlete and her peers.
Because swimming and diving suit coverage rules and regulations have been an ongoing national discussion, the Dimond High School Swim Program has made deliberate efforts over the last year to ensure athletes’ uniforms meet the regulations prescribed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation. This year, the Dimond swim team has purchased approved, team suits for every swimmer that meet the requirements put forth by the NFHS. The disqualified athlete was wearing the approved, school-issued suit during the race. In the first three meets this year, the Dimond swim team has had no disqualifications related to the wear of the swim uniform.
The NFHS provides the rules and regulations by which our athletic competitions are conducted. ASD contracts with local swim clubs to conduct swim meets across the District under the rules stipulated by the NFHS. Officials’ decisions are independent, guided by those rules. However, we expect all referees and officials to conduct themselves in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of every student athlete regardless of the young person’s gender, body shape, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or disability.
We owe it to our student athletes to provide a fair and consistent atmosphere in which they can train and compete to their fullest potential. ASD will not tolerate actions by its coaches, students, staff, or community members that discriminate, target, or otherwise create an unsafe or inequitable environment for its student athletes.
We look forward to pursuing an open dialogue among our coaches, students, the Alaska School Activities Association, and our community partners to resolve this situation and to ensure all athletic competitions are conducted consistently and fairly for every athlete and team.
Langford said she hopes young athletes paying attention to the incident will understand that they are perfect the way they are and supported by their coaches, regardless of their size, shape and color.
"It's never been about the skin that you're in, in any sport," she said. "It's always been about what you can will yourself and what you can work for to achieve. It never should have come to this."
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