It’s Sex Discrimination, Not My Chest, That’s Disrupting Class

I should really be studying for my upcoming final exams right now. Instead, I’m a bit distracted spending the final months of my junior year fighting the School District of Manatee County’s sexist attack on my body.

My life was completely different just a month ago. Over spring break, I was a normal teenager having a blast at the lazy river in Orlando. It was so much fun, and so hot, that I got sunburnt pretty badly, which made the car ride home uncomfortable.

Keeping in mind that I could barely handle a seatbelt against my skin, I picked out my outfit for the following school day: my most comfortable long-sleeve t-shirt, which I would wear without a bra. I figured this choice of attire would cause the least irritation to my skin. Little did I know of the firestorm that was on its way.

Lizzy Martinez

That morning at school went along as any other — until I got pulled out of class to go to student services. Apparently, the dean at my school wanted to speak to me. I sat in the office, nervously biting my nails, for what seemed to be forever. “Why does the dean want to see me?” I wondered. “What could I have done wrong?”

Roughly 15 minutes went by before the dean called me into her office. She was accompanied by the principal. She was shutting the door, she told me, because there were boys in the office, and she didn’t want me to get “embarrassed.” That’s when I knew what this whole ordeal was about. My cheeks began to flush.

A teacher had called the office because she had “concerns that I wasn’t wearing a bra,” and it was distracting boys in the classroom, the dean said. I looked her dead in the face and asked her if she was joking. “Unfortunately not, sweetie,” she replied. The principal intervened and backed her up. I sat there in shock that the principal and dean of my school were having a conversation about my nipples.

I felt completely humiliated.

The dean eventually asked me to wear a shirt underneath the one I was wearing to constrict the movement of my breasts and conceal my nipples. But after I doubled up on t-shirts, she still seemed dissatisfied.

That’s when she asked me to “move around.” Weirded out, I asked her what she meant.

“You know,” she said, shaking her body. “Move around.”

After I begrudgingly paraded my body in front of her, the dean resumed brainstorming ways to “fix” my nipple situation. And then, eureka:  “Band-aids!” she said. I was disgusted.

The dean sent me to the clinic, where I was told to use band-aids to ‘X’ out my nipples in the restroom. I stared in the restroom mirror with hot tears running down my face, unable to pull myself together. I bemoaned that if I were a smaller girl, this wouldn’t have happened to me. And it definitely wouldn’t have happened if I were a boy. I typically don’t struggle with body image issues, but that day I surely did.

With my shirt pulled up and tears streaming down, I stared in the mirror. In that moment, I hated myself, my body, and everyone who made me feel shame about the flesh that I was born in. I wanted to speak up for myself, but I felt intimidated by their authority.

I was sent back to class, still in tears. My best friend rushed me to the bathroom. When I showed her my bandages, she shared my rage.

Unable to pull myself together, I sent my mom a text telling her I felt attacked because of my gender. She came to my rescue right away.

When I got home that day, I logged onto Twitter and vented about what I went through at school. I sent my school a tweet from the heart: “Stop sexualizing my body.” The school proceeded to block me.

When friends and I planned a “Bracott” to support the destigmatization of female bodies, our school threatened to discipline students who participated. We just wanted our school to recognize female students as equal to our male classmates, not as sexual objects that are “distractions” in the classroom.

It’s been four weeks since the incident, and it’s clear that my nipples have never been the real distraction. As a student, nothing is more distracting to my ability to learn than being pulled out of class and made to feel ashamed about my own chest. That’s why I’m demanding that my school stop enforcing a dress code in a matter that discriminates against teenagers based on their sex.

I’ve been forced to miss several days of school, but I won’t miss the chance to do what’s right. I hope that by speaking out, I’ll help ensure that more schools treat girls’ bodies with equal respect, rather than shaming them with bandages.

Read the demand letter sent by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida to the School District of Manatee County.

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I wonder about the statement "And it definitely wouldn’t have happened if I were a boy." I would think that a similar situatuion could happen if a "well endowed" boy were to be wearing sweatpants with no underwear.


Perhaps therapy should be offered for those students who are distracted to the point of not being able to focus on the class.

neal cassidy

I think it's great that you are comfortable with who you are and are fighting for the right to be treated equal! In this day and age I think the only problems are those so close minded enough to have created a problem or distracting belief in the first place.. keep fightin' these ignorant (donkey's) ! :)


Women were not made to wear a bra, bras came way after we did. If you google the definition it says: "an undergarment worn by women to support the breasts", it is not meant to cover your nipples & make you less of a distraction. We all have them. Do what makes you feel best, and we will all work together to stop you and many others from being sexualized.


You are an idiot. I am sure the most comfortable thing for your sunburn would have been to not wear any clothing. So, why didn't you just do that? You are the one who put yourself in a position in which you were scrutinized. Don't blame other people for your poor decision or act as if you are being objectified. If the sunburn was so bad you couldn't wear proper clothing, you should have stayed home. Your principal was wrong in the ridiculous way she tried to "help" you. She should have just sent you home. And if you question the validity of any of my points, just read some of the lewd comments on this feed. Common sense—use it—and stop blaming the rest of the world for a stupid decision you made.


As a boy who was pulled aside in high school b/c I am well-endowed...or at least I was then...and told that my sweat pants were inufficientlly modest & I had to don something else or go home...I would like to point out that the entire argument “if I was a boy this wouldn’t happen” is nonsense on stilts.

Young people of both sexes are counseled every day, all over the country, for this sort of thing.. it’s what educators are supposed to do- inform a young person that a choice she or he has made was a bad choice and tactfully help them resolve it. Hopefully they are sensitive to embarrassment,

If this young lady has spent 4 weeks whining over something this trivial I can only conclude she (or her parent) are deliberately looking for an excuse to be aggrieved and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

I personally have no idea if the young lady’s shirt was a problem...that’s why there are adult educators in schools. Contrary to this young lady’s opinion....and the opinion of just about every teenager everywhere...she is not the best jusdge of what’s appropriate in school and she does not have everything figured out. What should have been a 15-minute issue has been blown up by a narcissist who thinks the world should be upended for her comfort.

Good for Manatee County for letting adults run the schools instead of ceding authority to this unusually childish child, and shame on the ACLU for their astounding lack of judgement,

Retired Califor...

Being a High School Teacher for forty years; you see all kinds of dress and fashion trends. I never sent a kid to the office for dress. If I saw a dress or outfit in question then I would tell them what they have on was not appropreate for school. That is true for both boys and girls. 100% of the time they listen to me and it wasn't a problem. A good teacher is their parent, friend, and guidance counselor. Forget the parents. Forget the administration. This kid seems to be a Drama Queen and her clothes are more important than school . I rolled my eye's reading her story or the article. Rarely do kids react to what other kids are wearing and if they are in question usually the other kids don't care. The Public lives in a glass house and thinking they know all about kids and school. Until you live in this environment day in and day out then you know. My job was to teach. The kids job was to learn. Most teachers and students do just that despite what the politician and public thinks. I think the ACLU has bigger fish to fry and this isn't one of them !


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