ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A brouhaha is brewing between a mother and Florida school officials after a 15-year-old student was told she was violating the school’s dress code and given a garish outfit to wear instead.
On just her third day of school at Oakleaf High School, a teacher told Miranda Larkin the dress she was wearing was too short. Oakleaf’s dress code dictates that the hems of dresses and skirts need to be knee-length or lower. Young Larkin, who is new to the school, claims that she was unaware of the code.
But Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, a former teacher at Deerfield High School on Chicago’s North Shore, told EAG News all schools have a dress codes and young Larkin should have been aware of it.
After all, teenage girls are very fashion conscience.
She was sent to the nurse’s office where she alleges she was forced to put on a bright yellow tee-shirt and bright red sweat pants with the words “Dress Code Violation” emblazoned on both. She says she was made to wear them all day instead of being sent home. Miranda says school officials told her it was to shame her so that she would never violate the code again. Eventually, she called home and left school early claiming she felt ill.
A Clay County school spokesman told ABC News affiliate WJXX says the school used to have a more subdued outfit for violators to wear. But those clothes were repeatedly stolen. The spokesman says students are given three options: they can stay in their clothes and go to in-school suspension. They can call home and have someone bring them suitable clothing. Or they can wear the sweats and tee-shirt all day.
Miranda claims she was only given the one option.
The school told ABC the district is open to suggestions. ““We’re looking at all options, but what we’re not going to do is just change in a knee-jerk reaction,” they said. “We take slow, deliberative action with things. This is what we thought was the best way to handle the situation at the time, but we’re certainly open to looking at other options. What we’re not open to doing is watering down discipline to students.”
Higgins says many high schools have baggy clothes that students who violate dress codes must wear. She says if Oakleaf was trying to humiliate Larkin, then that would have been inappropriate. But she doubts that.
Miranda’s mother, Dianna, was outraged. As reported by BuzzFeed, she said “My problem is not with the dress code itself,” she said. “I am actually a proponent of school uniforms…and believe that if you break the rules of the school you should be punished regardless of your opinion of the rule itself. My problem is with the public shaming of kids.”
Some readers posting to the BuzzFeed Facebook page said Larkin’s treatment by school officials shamed her into thinking her body was something ‘dirty’ and that she shouldn’t be forced to dress modestly.
Higgins disagrees. She thinks dress codes teach students what they will be facing when they graduate from high school or college and start a profession.
“If asking people to dress modestly means you’re conveying the message that their bodies are ‘dirty,’ that’s what every business out there in the world does” she said. “Every professional environment prohibits women from having their cleavage showing or wearing short skirts. So are all of these businesses communicating to women that their bodies are ‘dirty?’ Of course not! That’s just absurd.”
The mother said she was trying to deal with school officials privately but she kept “running into a brick wall.” So she turned to the media instead. And she’s threatening to file a complaint using the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Higgins says by no means should parents ever take the view that schools can do no wrong. She, herself, has complained very publicly about things that went on in her children’s school. But she believes that the Larkins may be overreacting in this situation.
“I do think that the mother and daughter who apparently were so embarrassed by having [Miranda] wear this tee-shirt and red sweatpants in school that they post ‘selfies’ of [her] on the Internet suggests that she maybe she wasn’t quite as embarrassed as they’re saying she was originally.”