Merced Schools Are Punishing Students Who Don’t Fit Gender Norms

April 22, 2017 /

By Layla Ornelas

Image via Flickr 


Editor’s Note: In honor of the National Day of Silence, our youth reporter, Layla Ornelas addresses the issues LGBTQ+ students face in high school. The ‘Day of Silence,’ a student-led movement, originated out of Virginia in the 90s. Tired of seeing the silencing effect of bullying and  and harassement, students organized an action and decided to take a vow of silence to protect their LGBTQ+ peers. Below, Ornelas voices her frustrations in hopes schools will change their unfair policies.    #NationalDayofSilence


Lately, I have noticed more people dressing to their own comfort level, which means sometimes going outside of gender norms. But, I have also seen that most are being punished or discriminated against for how they dress.

That is the case for students in the Merced Union High School District.

One of my peers, who wishes to stay anonymous, has struggled with being forced to change clothes on school grounds because the clothes do not meet the school “dress code,” even when those clothes do not break any of the rules.

Other students at the same high school might show too much skin and break many of the clothing rules, but they don’t get written up. Students like my friend, who dress in a more gender fluid way, constantly get written up.  

Many trans students can relate to that kind of discrimination. In Merced, trans students who are seen going into a preferred restroom are pushed away and sent to the facility they’re “supposed” to be in. Some are even written up or forced to go home since their clothes do not match their gender. What is worse, many students get dress coded just for wearing LGBT pride apparel.

That isn’t fair. Schools are supposed to be environments where you learn, not where you are punished for what you wear.

Unfortunately, there are many situations in schools throughout the country where students are discriminated against because of what they wear, who they love, and who they are. These students are bullied and they are humiliated, resulting in both physical and emotional scars that will haunt them for a long while.

It’s very upsetting to see schools turn away from the kind of progress made in recent years when it comes to things like LGBTQ+ rights and gender stereotypes. More and more, students are again becoming afraid, keeping their identities and their views in the shadows.

I do not want people to be afraid that their rights will be taken away from them. I want students to go to school without worrying if they will be written up or sent home simply because they refuse to conform to gender norms.
People shouldn’t be afraid of who they are and schools should never force students to be who they are not.



Layla Ornelas is 15 year old art enthusiast and youth reporter. Passionate about LGBTQ and human rights, she feels strongly about making a difference in her community. She comes from an activist background, serving as a junior Brown Beret,  and likes to help others.

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