Female students in Israel banned from school after wearing shorts in a heatwave

Students protesting on 19 and 20 May in schools in Ra'anana (left) and Modiin (right). Screen captures from Twitter.
Students protesting on 19 and 20 May in schools in Ra'anana (left) and Modiin (right). Screen captures from Twitter.

A group of female students in a school in Ra’anana, a city north of Tel Aviv, were banned from entering their school on 18 May because they all had bare legs. Many schools have a uniform policy that asks that girls’ legs be covered – even though in this instance, it was the second day of an extreme heatwave in the country. For these students, it was also the first day back at school after two months of lockdown.

At a different school in Petah Tikva on the same day, a teacher forced a seven-year-old girl to change her outfit after the girl came to school wearing a sleeveless dress emblazoned with the school’s logo. She was given a T-shirt to wear instead, but nothing to cover her lower half. As a result, she was forced to continue the school day just wearing a T-shirt and her knickers and enduring the mockery of her classmates. The Ministry of Education has ordered an investigation.

Photos of the girl who was told to change out of her dress and into just a T-shirt, shared by the journalist Liran Kog on Twitter. 

In protest, dozens of female students across central Israel, in schools in Kfar Saba, Modiin and Gedera, came to school the following day wearing shorts.

The Israeli media Ynet published photos of the girls demonstrating in their shorts lined up outside of their schools, or on their knees with fists raised in protest. In Gedera, 150 students were eventually allowed in, dressed in shorts, after waiting outside the school gates for three hours. 

In a school in Ra'anana, 19 May. Photo shared by Linor Deutsch. 

In Modiin, girls were repeatedly sent away while male students, also wearing shorts, were allowed into school. 

This is an age-old debate in Israel. One girl in Modiin told Ynet: ““Every year we talk to the management [about the dress code] who only laugh in our faces. A lot of teachers didn't even understand what we were doing."

The Israeli government hasn’t said anything in response to these protests, but Merav Michaeli, a Labour member of the Knesset, spoke out on social media in support of the students. In a video on Twitter, she said, “"Today I want to applaud all of these courageous girls who dared to come to school with their legs [showing]. This was a courageous act.”