A Bradenton, Fla., student said she was asked to cover her nipples with bandages last week after they became a distraction for other students at Braden River High School.
Lizzy Martinez, 17, decided not to wear a bra under her grey long-sleeve shirt last Monday, and school officials felt she became a target of her classmates’ stares.
Martinez said the humiliation began when Violeta Velazquez, the school dean, called her into the office. Martinez felt like she was being bullied by fellow students, but Velazquez said there was a distraction that needed to be addressed.
“She told me that I needed to put a shirt on under my long-sleeve shirt to try to tighten my breasts —to constrict them,” Martinez said. “And then she asked me to move around.”
Apparently the second shirt was not enough, Martinez said, because she was then sent to the nurse’s office. The nurse handed Martinez four bandages, two to cover each nipple, leaving her in tears.
On Thursday afternoon, the school district acknowledged that Braden River officials could have handled the situation better, but the district said they were only trying to enforce the district’s dress code.
“This matter was brought to the attention of the superintendent’s office for review,” the district’s general counsel, Mitchell Teitelbaum, said in a prepared statement. “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 Martinez violated the dress code by dressing in a way that distracted other students, and that school officials were only trying to help her fix the violation.
“You are expected to dress appropriately for school and for the business of learning with proper attention given to personal cleanliness, grooming and neatness,” the district’s Code of Student Conduct says.
The dress code does not specifically address or require bras.
Martinez’s mother, Kari Knop, said she received a phone call from the office Monday morning. She said the dean called about a “sensitive matter” involving her daughter. Saying she felt uncomfortable and unheard, Martinez left school early.
“If it was a male dean that asked my daughter to do this, we wouldn’t even be on the phone trying to justify it, therefore we should not be doing it as female deans,” Knop said.
On Tuesday, Martinez was called to the office because her mother had requested another phone conversation with school officials. Unsatisfied with the conversation, Knop again picked up her daughter from school.
Knop said that’s when Martinez revealed that school officials gave her the bandages on Monday. Knop said she slammed the brakes on her car while in the school parking lot.
“I stopped and I looked over at her, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to be kidding me,’” she said.
Knop said she later got in touch with Willie Clark, director of student services for the School District of Manatee County, and that he arranged a meeting with officials at the high school.
On Wednesday, Knop met with Clark, the dean, the school nurse and the principal, Sharon Scarbrough. The meeting, Knop said, was a chance to express her frustration.
“We should not treat a girl like this because of where her fat cells decided to distribute genetically,” she said.
Knop said she also emailed Superintendent Diana Greene that evening and that she received a phone call soon after.
Though Greene at first sympathized with Martinez, her mother said, she later said the girl’s “protruding” nipples may have distracted other students —a violation of the district’s dress code.
Martinez said she plans to stop wearing a bra in protest of what happened. On Monday, she tagged the school in a Twitter post that said, “Stop sexualizing my body @piratenationhs.”
The school’s Twitter account later blocked Martinez, according to a screenshot she provided Thursday.
“The students that were laughing or snickering or talking about me, that should have been addressed, not me, because I wasn’t the issue there,” Martinez said.