A High School Student Was Forced to Wear Band-Aids on Her Breasts for a Dress Code Violation

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Another day, another infuriating story about school dress codes punishing young girls for having bodies.

Lizzy Martinez, a 17-year-old junior at Braden River High School, wore a long-sleeve Calvin Klein shirt without a bra last week. She was pulled from class and brought the the dean’s office, where she was told her breasts were a distraction and “a boy was laughing at her.” Martinez was then told she was violating her school dress code (though this is not specifically addressed in the school’s policy), and was given four Band-Aids by her school nurse to put over her nipples. She cried in the bathroom afterwards.

“I was in shock that it was such a big deal that I wasn’t wearing a bra,” she told Buzzfeed News, “Most days I don’t wear one. It depends on my mood. I’m not wearing one right now, and why should it matter?” She added that she was “uncomfortable going back to a teacher who complained about my breast.”

Her mother, Kari Knop, also commented on the incident, calling it “a disgusting example of a double standard and shows how our culture body-shames women. If a boy was staring at her nipples that long why was he not spoken to or punished?” She continued:

“This whole issue was really eye-opening for me and puts things in perspective because I also have a 13-year-old son and, at that age, they have erections on accident and no one calls them out or sends them home…Why is a 17-year-old girl’s breast moving any different? It’s a collection of fat cells.”

Martinez also said, “They had me put on a second shirt and then stand up and, like, move and jump around to see how much my breasts moved.” This sounds like nothing short of harassment and humiliating punishment. “I was mortified,” said Martinez, who tweeted at the school Twitter account (which then blocked her).

The district’s general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum, released a statement a few days later, which read:

“This matter was brought to the attention of the Superintendent’s Office for review. It is undisputed that this matter should have been handled differently at the school level and corrective measures have been taken to prevent a reoccurrence in the way these matters will be addressed in the future…There was a violation of the School Dress Code and it was an appropriate matter to address by the School. It is clear the intent of school officials was to assist the student in addressing the situation. No disciplinary action was taken in relation to the student.”

Essentially, while they said that the issue wasn’t handled properly, it was right for the school to treat it as a dress code violation. The school is now in the process of amending its dress code to “require bras and undergarments.” Whether they’ll address any of Martinez or Knop’s points is “not clear”, says Buzzfeed.

The situation is not a new or surprising one, as we’re constantly seeing stories about girls receiving a dress code violation for visible straps, shorts, and really anything else. The troubling pattern of these stories is that they’re constantly sexualizing young girls simply for having bodies. Sending a teenage girl to the office or sending her home for her attire implies that her education isn’t as important as that of the boys she’s allegedly “distracting.” And forcing her to “move and jump”? That’s completely inexcusable.

Penalizing young girls for being a “distraction” sends the message that it is their fault that other people look at them, and perpetuates victim-blaming ideas that men (more specifically, their teachers) and boys can’t be trusted to control themselves.

(via Buzzfeed, image: Melinda Shelton on Flickr)

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