Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay is calling for the school district to discipline a Forest Hill High School official who she says removed her daughter from classes Thursday for wearing torn jeans, then lectured her to consider male classmates’ hormones when dressing.
In a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, McKinlay alleged that the unnamed school official “told [her daughter] that she needed to consider the guys in her class and their hormones when choosing her wardrobe, yanked her out of class and threw her into in-school suspension for the remainder of the day.”
“So she missed an entire day of core classes and couldn’t finish her quiz,” she wrote.
Calling the male school official’s actions a display of “sexism,” McKinlay said that the official should be suspended for “victim-shaming” her daughter.
McKinlay posted a picture of her daughter’s jeans showing one pant leg torn at the knee, something that she acknowledged may have violated the school’s dress code.
But she said an in-school suspension was a disproportionate punishment, and that it was wrong for the official to say that it was her daughter’s job to control male classmates’ hormones.
“Why should she have to worry about dressing a certain way to curtail a boy’s potential behavior?” she said. “So, like, it’s her fault if the boy touches her because of what she was wearing?”
“A boy’s potential inability to control his hormones warrants my daughter’s inability to attend her classes today and miss valuable curriculum?” she continued.
Forest Hill High School Principal Mary Stratos said Thursday afternoon that she was unfamiliar with the incident but that she would investigate the school official’s alleged comments to McKinlay’s daughter.
She said that the school prohibits ripped jeans and other torn clothing. Typically, she said, a first offense leads to a lunch detention, but the penalties can increase for subsequent offenses.
If a student is seen on campus with torn clothes, Stratos said that usually he or she is asked to call a parent to bring a change of clothes.
The veteran principal defended the school’s dress code as gender-neutral and said it was enforced equally for boys and girls.
It doesn’t matter where a clothing tear is located, she said, because school administrators should not be required to judge tears based on their location.
“We don’t need to be the tatter police,” she said.
In an interview, McKinlay said that three of her children have attended Forest Hill High and have had good experiences at the school.
“She is my third kiddo at this school and we have never had a bad experience,” she said. “So this is completely shocking.”
The school’s dress code says that clothing “should be intact” and not have “holes, rips, or frays.”
UPDATE: In a second Facebook post on Friday, McKinlay said she had spoken with Stratos and multiple school board members and was “quite confident they are addressing the situation.”
While acknowledging that her daughter had violated the school’s dress code, she said the way the school official framed the violation was problematic.
"The message that somehow a woman's wardrobe is responsible for a man's behavior is wrong. In any form,” McKinlay wrote. "And I am hopeful this will be used as an opportunity to provide further sensitivity training to staff and students.”
“My daughter indeed violated her school's dress code and she will bear the consequences of that,” she added. “But such a violation never warrants the experience she had yesterday.”