Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Law Professors Weigh in on School Dress Codes and Mandatory Bras

Wash Times, School May Make Bras Mandatory After Forcing Student to Cover Nipples with Band-Aids

The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in this week to defend the choice of students at a Florida high school to go bra-free, saying the school’s threat to impose a mandatory bra policy for girls amount to sex discrimination.

 

The ACLU says Braden River High School in Bradenton violated a 17-year-old student’s rights last month after it required her to cover her nipples with adhesive bandages, saying her undergarment-free look had become a distraction to fellow students, including boys who laughed or stared at her.

 

Lizzy Martinez was pulled from class, given an extra shirt and, when that wasn’t deemed enough, given the bandages. She was then sent back to her classroom after what she called a humiliating experience.

 

“Stop sexualizing my body,” she said, taking to Twitter to ding her school.

 

She attempted to lead a boycott, urging fellow students to come to school without bras or speak out about her treatment, but the school warned that this too could be deemed a distraction.

. . . . 

 

Elizabeth M. Schneider, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, said schools need to be wary of citing distractions as the basis for their rules. She said educational institutions, like law schools, used to exclude women on the basis that their presence would distract male students and thus inhibit learning.

 

“The high school is playing into a very old and illegal concept in using the theme of distraction as a ground for differential treatment,” Ms. Schneider said.

 

She also said it would be unconstitutional to make it mandatory for female students to wear bras.

 

“Unless you are going to do a body check of every woman student who comes through the door, which would be even far more illegal, it’s impossible to check,” Ms. Schneider said.

 

Tracy A. Thomas, a professor at the University of Akron School of Law, said Lizzy’s situation is representative of the #MeToo movement with women coming forward sharing experiences of sexual harassment.

 

“Girls are surprised and hurt when they learn that their fellow male students and the administrators view them through this sexualized lens,” she said.

 

She suggested school policies punish boys for inappropriate comments, rather than shame female students.

A related earlier blog post is here.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2018/05/law-professors-weigh-in-on-school-dress-codes-and-mandatory-bras.html

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