Some Joplin, Mo., high school students are defending a teacher who reportedly called a teenage girl “busty” and “plus-sized” and kicked her out of class for wearing a blouse that “didn’t cover her cleavage properly.”
A lawyer for the teen’s family says she is being bullied and has had to shut down most of her social media accounts.
Melissa Barber says her daughter, Kelsey Anderson, was singled out earlier this month at Joplin High School because her long-sleeved blouse and jeans violated the dress code.
Barber shared a photo of the outfit on her Facebook page and wrote:
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“This is the shirt that just got my 17-year-old dress coded.
“The teacher said, ‘Your boobs are bigger than most girls, and you are gonna have to try harder.’
“She really needs to not speak to my daughter like that. What is wrong with the way this child is dressed????”
Barber says her daughter was sent to the principal’s office by a female child development teacher after being “sexualized” in front of classmates.
“Bustier women need to wear clothing that covers their cleavage” and “plus-sized women need to dress accordingly,” the teacher said, according to Barber.
Anderson says she was appropriately “covered up” and showed very little, if any, cleavage while wearing the shirt, KOAM reports. She says the laces on the top of her shirt can’t loosen.
“They’re sewed,” Anderson said. “They tie on the outside and there’s like a pad on the inside, so even if they were to be cut, ripped, it (cleavage) would be covered.”
However, some students say there is more to this story and that they support the teacher.
“Always keep in mind there is 2 sides to every story,” student Laynee Wilson wrote in a Facebook post.
In an interview reported by USA Today, Wilson said others at Joplin High School saw Anderson earlier in the day with an exposed midriff — and that there is a photo of it.
Wilson said the teacher “is one of the most positive and encouraging teachers” she has ever had.
Wilson called the Anderson’s version of events a “fake story.”
Junior Mariah Corben said that the teacher was simply doing her job.
Corben pointed to the photo of Anderson taken in the bathroom as possible evidence that her outfit broke the school’s dress code.
The teacher could have used different words, Corben said, “but that doesn’t mean this woman needs to be blasted on the news as a bad teacher.”
Another student, Angel Xenia Oviedo, said she took the picture while in a school restroom with Anderson.
“People need to realize that this photo was taken in the bathroom, no one else was in there and I did see her tuck the shirt back in before walking out,” Oviedo said, according to USA Today.
Anderson told KOAM that picture was taken after a school exercise class. Anderson says she did a “teenage” thing by allowing one of her friends to take this picture, which shows her shirt lifted above only her belly button. Anderson says she lowered her shirt before she left the bathroom.
Anderson’s family is being represented by Joplin lawyer Elizabeth Turner, who told The Star that the teen has been bullied since her story went viral and that there have been other reports of unfair practices at the high school.
“I’ve had quite a few students and parents contact me that this may not be isolated and that female students have been treated differently at Joplin than males and that there is a pattern of discrimination,” Turner said. “Kelsey has been bullied and shamed online quite a bit since this happened so she had to deactivate most of her accounts. It’s so sad.”
Turner added that she hopes this matter can be settled without a lawsuit, but that option is on the table.
“I will say there never was an intention to sue but an intention to protect a young lady from bullying and body shaming so she can get her education. Now, if the only way we can do that is to sue, and protect others in the process, then we will.”
The school district is investigating.
According to Fox News, a spokeswoman for the district said: “The District does not consider comments by staff members about students’ bodies appropriate. Our staff conduct policy requires all staff members to maintain courteous and professional relationships with students. This incident is being investigated by the administration to determine if this policy has been violated.”
School dress codes issues across the country have made headlines since the beginning of the new school year.
Los Gatos, Calif., middle-schooler Demetra Alarcon got pulled out of class a couple of weeks ago when a teacher decided the 13-year-old’s romper was too short. Her dad, Tony Alarcon, has come to her defense.
“I was told by an administrator that the girls’ clothes are a distraction to the boys. That shouldn’t be a concern.”