Wow. Just a few weeks ago, a high school principal in South Carolina made national headlines for telling female students they shouldn’t wear leggings unless they’re a size 2. If you thought that incident was rage-inducing, then brace yourself for what a teacher in Joplin, MO, told one of her female students in front of the entire class: “Plus size women need to dress accordingly.”
Yes, that’s right. When Kelsey Paige Anderson, a 17-year-old student at Joplin High School, showed up to class on Friday in a modest long-sleeve peasant blouse and ripped jeans—the uniform of teenagers everywhere—her teacher sent her to the principal’s office for a dress code violation. Was it the ripped jeans, perhaps, that got her in trouble? Nope, those were fine.
Apparently, her blouse was the problem, because, as the teacher told Kelsey, "your boobs are bigger than most girls, and you are gonna have to try harder,” and “bustier women need to wear clothing that cover their cleavage.”
Give us a minute to choke down our anger.
Not only do we see no cleavage to speak of, in what world is it appropriate for a teacher to remark—in front of the entire class, no less—on a student’s body?
Not surprisingly, Kelsey’s mom Melissa Barber was pretty upset, too. She posted a photo of Kelsey’s perfectly unobjectionable outfit on Facebook, with a note about what happened. Her post quickly went viral, and now has over 27,000 shares.
In an update, Melissa notes that she met with the school counselor and principal to discuss what happened and was told “the teacher was being unreasonable and obviously made a mistake.” Yet, she adds, the principal refused to let Kelsey transfer to another class.
“I began explaining that my daughter was just sexualized by her teacher in front of the whole class. She was embarrassed and horrified,” Melissa says in the post. “He continued to defend the teacher. I could see we were getting nowhere. I was close to losing my temper. I took my daughter by the hand and we left. I refuse to put my daughter in a situation where her self esteem is completely destroyed. She is there to learn. This whole time she was missing out on an education while we were all sitting in a room discussing her boobs. How often does this happen to your sons?”
Melissa also posted a video immediately after the incident of another student noting that a male student had been allowed to wear a lewd shirt all day:
And she posted a photo of Kelsey with another female student (who also didn’t violate the school’s dress code) for comparison:
It’s clear that this teacher is probably a nut acting on her own warped perceptions, but the fact that the school doesn’t understand how an egregious violation occurred is pretty astounding.
First, for those in the back row: THERE ISN’T A SEPARATE DRESS CODE FOR CURVY WOMEN. Or skinny women. Or purple women. There’s one dress code, for everyone.
Second, it’s deeply shameful that a high school teacher and its administrative staff would be so out of touch with the needs of high school girls. During a time when girls are doing their best to develop confidence—even when the world is sending them so many conflicting messages about their bodies—schools should take pains to reinforce the notion that all body types are beautiful. What sort of message is this school sending to its female students by condoning teachers who shame and embarrass them? As Kelsey’s mom wisely notes, we don’t police boys’ bodies in this way.
According to Melissa’s latest post, it looks like the family has retained an attorney and will be fighting the school in court. “Thank you so much for standing with her! I started this fight for my daughter. I will finish it for yours,” she vows.