The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How Should Students Dress For School?

on April 19, 2018

Today’s blog is not the long, difficult piece I’ve been working on (which I think won’t be ready till next week). Instead, I will describe an article in today’s New York Times and ask for your opinions about the issue it covers.

An article in today’s New York Times told the story of a 17 year old female student named Lizzy, who came to school wearing a large, dark, loose t-shirt with no bra under it because she had gotten sun-burned on her chest over the weekend. Unfortunately, the outlines of her nipples were somewhat visible, and that had drawn the attention of some boys in the classroom.

In this situation the teacher did not say anything to Lizzy. But soon after the class had begun, the girl was called downstairs to meet with two school officials: a school dean and the principal.

The first thing the officials asked was why wasn’t Lizzy wearing a bra. Her answer was that her chest was sunburned, so having anything tight on it would be painful. Nevertheless, the officials were not sympathetic. They told her that she was violating the school dress code and should put on an undershirt

Almost immediately, Lizzy started to cry and said she wanted to go home. She called her mother, who was a nurse at work and couldn’t leave to pick her up. So the dean insisted that the girl must put adhesive bandages over her nipples and went down to the school clinic to get some. Lizzy put them on as directed and went back to class.

After 45 minutes in the classroom, Lizzy began to cry again because the bandages hurt her as she moved. She was allowed to go to a bathroom with a friend, and once there removed the bandages and called her mother again. This time her mother came and took her home.

Two weeks after that happened Lizzy sent out a tweet that many of her friends read and responded to. On the next Monday she and about 30 of her classmates came to school without wearing bras under their clothing, and several other students had taped Band-Aids on their backpacks in the shape of an X.

As you might expect, the practice of girls wearing unacceptable clothing in school is spreading to many other schools all over the country. Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney a the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU says “It’s not clear whether the rise we’re seeing in advocacy around the issue of dress codes is because schools are imposing them in more discriminatory ways now than they were before, or whether more students are feeling empowered to speak up and complain about discriminatory dress codes. But we do definitely see that more students are speaking up.”

If you were the teacher in Lizzy’s classroom or the principal of that school what would you do or say if you saw students’ clothing that you considered inappropriate? Think about boys’ clothing as well as girls’, and nasty messages written on shirts. I hope to get some answers that will make me think more about facing such a problem.  I will respond with my own answer afterward.

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