The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Will Nakedness Soon be Appropriate for School?

on April 23, 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 Saturday’s New York Times and ask for your opinions about the issue it covers.

An article in the New York Times recently 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 Lizzy wasn’t wearing a bra. Her answer was that her chest was sunburned, so having anything tight on it would have been painful. Nevertheless, the officials were not sympathetic. They told the girl 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 then 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 leave the classroom and go to a restroom with a friend. Once there she removed her bandages and called her mother once more. This time her mother came and took her home.

Two weeks after all this 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 female classmates came to school without wearing bras under their clothing, and several other students had taped Band-Aids on their backpacks.

As you might expect, given the way many young people dress in their personal time,the practice of 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 said, “It’s not clear whether the rise we’re seeing in advocacy around the issue of dress code is because schools are imposing them in more discriminatory ways now than they were before, or weather 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 Lizzy’s teacher or one of the school officials, what would you do or say if you saw a student wearing clothing that you considered inappropriate? Think about boys’ clothing as well as girls’, and the vulgar messages sometimes printed on tee shirts.

I hope to get some answers from readers that would make school officials think more deeply about existing school dress codes and, perhaps, come up with something that students will feel is reasonable and fair to everyone.

2 responses to “Will Nakedness Soon be Appropriate for School?

  1. plthomasedd says:

    The problem is dress codes, according to research, are sexist:

    • Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Code. This is a documentary by a 17-year-old student, available on YouTube. This could be a text in this unit or a model for documentaries created by students.
    • “Why School Dress Codes Are Sexist,” Li Zhou (The Atlantic). This is a well-written work of journalism that covers the topic of sexism in dress codes well and serves as a strong model for public writing that uses hyperlinks as citation.
    • “Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public School Dress Codes,” Meredith J. Harbach. Here, students can examine a scholarly approach to the issues of sexism and dress codes.
    • “The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes: Uncovering Bias and Power,” Rosalind Wiseman (Anti-Defamation League). A curriculum resource and excellent overview, this can serve as a guideline for students lobbying for changes to dress codes and/or writing alternative codes that avoid bias.
    • “Baby Woman,” Emily Ratajkowski (Lenny). Ratajkowski is a contemporary celebrity, model and actress, who takes a strong public position as a feminist, despite her association with provocative and sexualized media (controversial music videos and TV commercials). Her personal narrative is a strong model of the genre, but it also complicates views of feminism and female sexuality as well as objectification.

    Maggie Sunseri, Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Codes, YouTube, may 29, 2015, accessed February 10, 2017,
    Li Zhou, “Why School Dress Codes Are Sexist,” The Atlantic, October 20, 2015, accessed February 10, 2017,
    Meredith Johnson Harbach, “Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public School Dress Codes,” 50 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1039 (2016), access February 10, 2017,
    Rosalind Wiseman, “The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes: Uncovering Bias and Power,” Anti-Defamation League, September 2014, accessed February 10, 2017,
    Emily Ratajkowski, “Baby Woman,” Lenny, February 16, 2016, accessed February 2, 2017,


  2. Jane W says:

    1. being sunburned certainly qualifies as a sickness. Stay home till better.
    2. kids with t shirts with vulgar sayings must change (or put shirt on inside out, if that solves the problem) or go home.
    Nobody has the right to disrupt the educational process.


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