A West Palm Beach teen’s slightly exposed knee was too much for her male classmate’s hormones to handle, according to Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay.
In a Facebook post Thursday, McKinlay went on a self-styled "mom rant." She said her teenaged daughter was removed from class and placed in in-school suspension at Forest Hill Community High School after an administrator took issue with the girl’s jeans.
McKinlay said her daughter was in the middle of a quiz during an International Baccalaureate-level history class when an unnamed male administrator told her she needed to "consider the guys in her class and their hormones when choosing her wardrobe," McKinlay wrote. She said her daughter was pulled from the class before finishing the quiz and forced to miss the day’s remaining classes.
McKinlay said the administrator’s actions amounted to sexism, victim blaming and girl shaming. She is now calling for the administrator to be disciplined.
"Having worked in the sexual assault awareness arena for many years, his comment equates to a girl being told rape was her fault because of what she was wearing," McKinlay wrote. "No. Not now. Not ever. Her knee is not responsible for a male’s behavior! The male is responsible for his own behavior."
Forest Hill principal Mary Stratos told the Palm Beach Post on Thursday that she would investigate the alleged comments. Stratos said ripped or torn clothing is against the school’s dress code and the first offense is usually met with a lunch detention. She said penalties increase with repeat offenses and students seen with dress code violations are usually asked to call a parent for a change of clothes.
Stratos said administrators are not "tatter police" and shouldn’t judge a tear based on its location.
McKinlay acknowledged her daughter was in violation of the dress code, but said her issue is with disproportionate punishment and her daughter being charged with controlling her classmate’s hormones.
"She deserves a lunch detention because ripped jeans are a dress code violation," McKinlay said. "What she didn’t deserve was the treatment she got."
Commenters on McKinlay’s post also took the opportunity to point out seemingly logical fallacies in school dress codes. For instance, one user pointed out that full-length jeans with tears in them are dress code violations, but shorts ending well above the knee are acceptable.
The incident also resurfaces growing concern over schools "body shaming" girls via dress code.
In April, 17-year-old Bradenton student Lizzy Martinez decided not to wear a bra under a solid grey long-sleeved shirt when she went to school one day. She said she was left in tears after a school dean told her she needed to "constrict her breasts" because they were too distracting. After putting an undershirt on and being asked to move around, Martinez was also given bandages to cover her nipples.
At the time, the school district said the situation could have been handled better. It said administrators were simply enforcing the dress code, despite there being no evidence the dress code regulates or requires bras.
Daniel Figueroa IV can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @danuscripts