Two Cedarburg High School students, Ava Rheeve and Julia Going, decided it was unacceptable to go back to classes if a mask mandate weren't in place.
Ava Rheeve and Julia Going attend Cedarburg High School in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Like many high schools, theirs has a pretty strict dress code and it is enforced with rigidity. Most notably, the dress code bans girls from wearing tank tops with thin spaghetti straps, among other rules. When students were informed they would be heading back to school this fall, the school also announced on July 15 that the administration would not require pupils to wear masks. However, they would still be made to follow the school dress code. Rheeve and Going decided that this was unacceptable in the middle of a pandemic and fought back. The duo started a petition that has since gained over 1,500 signatures. Soon enough, Cedarburg High School was compelled to reverse its policy on masks.
Julia Going and Ava Rheeve are heroes. 👏https://t.co/UqfFkDBY1W— Aimée La Fountain (@aimeelafountain) August 26, 2020
The Cedarburg student handbook states that some clothing choices are a "disruption to the education process." Rheeve argued, however, that not wearing a mask during a public health crisis was equally disruptive. "They say my shoulders are somehow a distraction to a boy’s education," she said. "Well then isn’t it also distracting to wonder if that person over there might be breathing pandemic germs all over me?" Of course, the student had a point. Pairing up with fellow pupil Going, they decided to draft a petition to urge their high school to reverse course the night they heard about the mask policy. They asked the student body to join hands and sign the petition.
Ava Rheeve is quite the remarkable young lady! She’s wise beyond her years & a future leader of America. 🇺🇸 Good job, kiddo! #KidsWillChangeTheWorld— chris(tina)! 🌊🏴☠️ (@politicalchicky) August 25, 2020
The two students wrote in the petition, "Administration has been able to discipline students in the past for rules as trivial as shorts length and tank-top strap width. thus it carries that they should be equipped to handle violations which endanger the lives of Cedarburg students, teachers, families, and community members." Since the petition was first drafted on July 16, it has received over 1,500 signatures. Within two weeks, the administration at Cedarburg High School had changed its position on masks. When students return to school in September, they will be mandated to wear masks at all times. Cedarburg Principal Adam Kurth even released a statement praising Rheeve and Going for their courage.
"Regardless of anyone’s beliefs on wearing masks, we are extremely proud of the courage our students showed in taking a stand for what they believe," he affirmed. "Ava and Julia showed tremendous maturity in their advocacy for the safety of themselves, their peers, and our school community." The largely sexist dress code is still in force, but the young girls proved that standing up for what is right, especially in the middle of a health crisis, is important. It is likely that their decision to speak up will save many students' lives when they return to their classes this upcoming academic year.