It’s 2018, and, yes, girls are still being punished for bringing their bodies to school. Lizzy Martinez is a 17-year-old student at a Florida high school who showed up to class last week wearing an oversized, long-sleeve shirt without a bra. A few hours into her school day, she was pulled from a classroom and told by a nurse to wear Band-Aids over her breasts.
Martinez was taken from her fifth-period class and to her school’s dean’s office, where she was then told that her nipples were “distracting” other students.
I decided not to wear a bra today and got pulled out of class bc one of my teachers complained that it was a “distraction to boys in my class.” My school basically told me that boys’ education is far more important than mine and I should be ashamed of my body. @Manateeschools 🙂
— liz (@lizzymartineez) April 2, 2018
In a post to her Twitter account, the junior from Braden River High School in Bradenton, Fla. explained how earlier that morning she had decided to go to school without a bra. “Most days I don’t wear one. It depends on my mood,” Martinez told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “I’m not wearing one right now… why should it matter?”
And why should it matter? It’s something most people don’t need to have to explain. Afterall, plenty of other women across the globe do this every single day of their lives. Some do it for comfort reasons, some do it to make a statement and others do it for their health. For Martinez, it’s just because she didn’t want to, something that didn’t need much consideration. After all, the student goes to school for classes, not fashion. But, when she was sent to face a school official, Martinez was told that her top had distracted a few other students and caused a boy to laugh at her.
“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,” Martinez told the publication. “I was mortified.”
After the school’s dean told Martinez that she had violated a school dress code, a school nurse gave her a set of four Band-Aids and instructed her to apply them to her nipples.
Mortified, Martinez cried in the school’s bathroom. “They told me to cross out my nipples, and I just went to the bathroom and cried,” Martinez said. “I was in shock that it was such a big deal that.” The humiliation of the day did not end there, though.
After the incident, Martinez realized the school’s Twitter account had blocked her on the social media platform.
*school has student put bandaids over her nipples because it is a “distraction” then blocks them for calling them out on sexualizing her* :/ pic.twitter.com/x8dEDYjh2c
— liz (@lizzymartineez) April 3, 2018
After the incident, Martinez sent out a tweet to the school telling them to “stop sexualizing” her body. Martinez’s mother, Kari Knop, commented on the incident to BuzzFeed, calling the incident “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?”
In a post to her Facebook account, Knop shared an image of the outfit that got her daughter sent to the dean’s office in the first place. “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,” she said. “Why is a 17-year-old girl’s breast moving any different? It’s a collection of fat cells.”
Mitchell Teitelbaum, the school district’s general counsel, said in a statement that the incident had been mishandled but remained firm that Martinez broke the school rules by not wearing a bra.
“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,” Teitelbaum said. “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.”
It is important to note that the school’s dress code policy does not actually specifically mention or require bras and undergarments in their policy. Instead, the policy states that if a student’s “personal attire or grooming distracts the attention of other students or teachers from their school work, disrupts educational activities and processes of the school, or is a potential safety hazard, you will be required to make the necessary alterations to such attire or grooming before entering the classroom or you may be assigned to In-School Suspension (ISS).”
In a post to her Facebook account, Knop cited a conversation that she had with school district’s Superintendent Diana Greene. According to Knop, Greene will work with the school to amend its dress code policy so that it will require bras and undergarments. Here’s hoping this requirement extends to students of all genders as prescribed by federal laws, which protectS against discrimination in education. Particularly because such a message suggests that by being “distracting” to other students and teachers that it is a student’s fault when other people sexualize them.
Fortunately, Martinez has received loads of support from classmates and users on social media.
What comes to mind here is that equality seems not to matter when boys wearing tight jeans aren't forced to tape down their business because of the greater concern girls might get distracted.
— Renee de Suiza (@RdeSuiza) April 9, 2018
Many have asked important questions of whether boys will be forced to wear multiple layers to hide their nipples too.
Some have expressed disgust at the administrators who had looked at Martinez’s breasts in the first place.
this kind of thing is sicking for a teacher today that is so wrong makes one wanna puke
— Zero Ayres (@ZeroAyres) April 8, 2018
Because what’s “distracting” is suddenly becoming aware of the fact that your teacher oggles your nipples while you’re in class.
And mostly everyone has asked her to keep up her fight.
schools forget everyone's important these days…keep on the good fight girl.
— Luis Serna (@PrinceVenom_) April 7, 2018
Because the truth is, it feels like the country receives a report about a girl’s dress code violation on a daily basis. Enough is enough.