She was told it was "a distraction to the boys."

By Anna Sheffer
panitanphoto/Shutterstock

Many of us have begun to wonder if school dress codes serve any purpose—or if they mostly just subject girls to sexist scrutiny. While some dress codes are body-positive, in most cases, they show a blatant fear of female sexuality, as well as regressive double standards in terms of male and female bodies. And recently, one New York middle-schooler was pulled out of class for having an exposed belly button.

The New York Post reported on February 2nd that Samantha Wilson, an eighth-grader at Irvington Middle School in Westchester, New York, was recently called into the assistant principal’s office for the “inappropriate” outfit she was wearing. The issue? Her black and white striped sweater, which she wore with high-waisted leggings.

"I was told it was a distraction to the boys, and that my midriff and bra strap were visible," Wilson told the Post. 

Although the teen noted that the sweater did sometimes expose her bra strap, she said that her midriff was only visible when she raised her hand. She told the paper that she had previously worn it to theater auditions and in yearbook pictures. Wilson went to her next class visibly upset. She recalled that when the teacher asked her what was wrong and found out she had been “dress-coded,” the instructor said “she deserves to be.”

In response to the incident, Wilson’s 17-year-old sister, Cydney, started a petition on Change.org to get the district to stop prohibiting “bare midriffs.” Cydney wrote that her sister had been “devastated” about the dress code violation.

"The only lesson she learned today is that she needs to cover up her body, otherwise she will be pulled from class and humiliated," she wrote. "The objectification of our students in the middle school is absolutely horrifying. What are we trying to teach our young students at their most vulnerable time?"

The petition also said that “nobody’s belly button is inappropriate.” As of February 6th, it has gained 702 signatures out of a goal of 1,000. In a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, Irvington Schools Superintendent Kristopher Harrison said that the district wanted to make sure students were comfortable with the dress code.

"The fact is, we always want to improve our service to our students," his statement read in part. "If there is concern that the Code, in its present form, is inconsistent with the spirit of our school community, we want to know and we want to help."

Wilson’s experience shows just how damaging dress codes can be, specifically for girls. We need to be teaching young women to love their bodies, not shame them for being comfortable in their skin.

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