A Florida mother is outraged that her teenage daughter was forced to a wear a so-called “shame suit” — a public punishment for violating the dress code — on her third day at a new high school. She’s threatening to file a complaint with a federal agency, saying that her daughter’s privacy rights were violated when school administrators broadcast her dress code infraction to the rest of her peers.
Miranda Larkin didn’t realize she would be violating Oakleaf High School’s rules when she wore this black skirt on her first week of school after she and her family moved to the area from another state. But she was quickly stopped in the hallway by a teacher who said her skirt was too short. Miranda was sent to the nurse’s office and instructed to change into the school’s “dress code violation outfit.”
That outfit consists of a neon yellow t-shirt and bright red shorts, both emblazoned with the words “DRESS CODE VIOLATION”:
Miranda said she was embarrassed to have to wear the ill-fitting clothes in front of her new classmates, who haven’t gotten a chance to get to know her well yet. “First impressions are really important and I had a really bad one,” she told local outlet WTLV.
Miranda’s mother, Dianna Larkin, has referred to the outfit as a “suit of shame” and says that Miranda started sobbing as soon as she was forced to put it on. Larkin maintains it was unfair to target her daughter in such a humiliating way — and she now plans to file a complaint under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, because she says school administrators wrongly made Miranda’s discipline public.
“I really do believe in punishing my kids if they do something wrong, but this is not about punishing kids. This is about humiliation,” Larkin told ABC News.
Although Larkin says she doesn’t have any problem with school dress codes themselves, Miranda’s “shame suit” is just the latest example in a long history of schools sparking controversy for enforcing stringent dress codes. Miranda is hardly the first teenage girl to be shamed by a school administration because of what she’s wearing. Other girls have been called out in front of their peers, sent home for the day, or even kicked out of school dances for wearing things that are deemed to be too short.
Critics point out that these type of policies have an outsized impact on girls, who are ultimately sent the message that it’s their responsibility to cover up their bodies to avoid “distracting” their male peers. This persistent double standard ensures that harmful gender stereotypes — like the idea that boys can’t control themselves — are reinforced right around the time as kids are first learning how to navigate sexual relationships. Plus, this type of framing ultimately contributes to rape culture, since it furthers the assumption that sexual assault victims must have been “asking for it” by wearing clothing that was simply too revealing.