You don't have to be some hardcore body positivity activist to see the trouble with this school policy. A mad as hell uncle took to Facebook to call out his niece's Mississippi public elementary school after she was sent home because her clothes were too formfitting. Her uncle calls the school's treatment of the 9-year-old body shaming, and he's got a point.
The little girl attends the Brookhaven Elementary school in Brookhaven, Mississippi. And, according to Nettles, she's not the only girl being treated unfairly about her appearance. He said another little girl with a similar body type to Nettles was given the same treatment by the school.
According to WAPT News, the school's handbook details the dress code as "tights or leggings are not permitted as outerwear and all tops must be size appropriate." And that's the real challenge. What does size appropriate mean when you're talking about 9-year-olds?
When reached for comment by Romper, both the school and district office declined to offer any additional details related to the incident. Nettles' original post has already been shared more than 46,000 times.
Here's what Nettles had to say about his niece's treatment by the school:
Does my niece's round belly OFFEND you? Obviously, her attire was too form fitting. It was offensive enough to get her sent to in-school suspension at Brookhaven Elementary School. Apparently, it is acceptable to body shame a nine year old. My niece may not be the ideal weight, but she was not showing anything inappropriate. It sickens me to imagine my sweet niece going to a school that cares more about her weight than what's in her mind. They could have made her wait for a new outfit in the office. Instead, she was sent directly to ISS. Unfortunately, another girl with the same body type in her class received the same treatment. The second outfit was also not satisfactory. If the school is so concerned with their student's appearance, they should implement school uniforms. Dress codes are open for interpretation and abuse. This abuse was demonstrated by the faculty at Brookhaven Elementary School. Does this punishment seem appropriate to you? #9yearoldbodyshaming
Policing the bodies of girls and women certainly isn't anything new, but it seems to be happening to younger and younger girls all the time. What was the point of humiliating this girl? What did the school accomplish by treating her as if she's done something wrong, by making her stay in In School Suspension while she waited for her mother to put together a look the school deemed more suitable for her size?
The implication of these kinds of policies and messages are that this little girl's body was something so shameful it needed to be covered or hidden by a less form-fitting shirt. It seems to also suggest that a 9-year-old can dress provocatively by wearing a shirt that hugs her body — a suggestion that is rampant with victim-blaming and notions that reinforce rape culture.
Here's the little girl's outfits, which were both, according to Nettles, rejected by the school.
I would like to offer the suggestion that it's cruel and totally shortsighted to treat any little girl as if her very act of existing at school in her body and in her clothes is something she should be ashamed of. Punished for, even. Sure, schools need to have rules for all sorts of reasons, and dress codes are one way for administrators to cut down on distractions that take away from learning time. But when it's the dress code itself that's doing the harm, it's time to reconsider its enforcement and show a little more compassion for kids.