Molly was wearing sports attire when a teacher called her to the front of the class.
When Molly Neuner, a sixth grade attending King Middle School in Portland, Maine, arrived at school one day last week, she had no idea that she and a classmate would soon be chastised by a teacher looking to make a humiliating example of them. Molly and the other female student became two more students that were being held to a ridiculous dress code standard that has been plaguing the nation, with some students making statements about how their outfit was actually appropriate.
Molly’s mother, Christina Neuner, recounted what she heard about the incident and told NBC News,
“Her teacher called her friend and her up in front of the whole class and asked her to measure her tank top and her friend to measure her shorts,” she said. “Molly’s tank top didn’t fit the 2 finger wide rule and her friend’s shorts was above the shorts code because she’s very tall and has long legs. They were warned about facing detention if it was repeated.”
“She made us feel really uncomfortable,” Molly said. “It was really uncomfortable and weird.”
The school’s official dress code doesn’t have any language that indicates a two-finger rule is mandatory to follow, though it does say that “thin” straps are forbidden and states that shorts or skirts above finger length are not allowed. Molly said that she was wearing a purple racer-back sports top on that day.
As though this one embarrassing moment in front of her classmates wasn’t enough, that same teacher sought out Molly during lunch and harassed her again, this time saying she should put a sweatshirt on over her top. When Molly said that she had a jacket with her instead, the teacher rejected that idea and warned her about detention again.
“Prior to this incident, the school had a community meeting on April 7, 2017, to discuss the dress code and Molly told me that they focused largely on the girl’s dress code,” Christina learned after reaching out to the principal of the school. “They wanted to make sure girls didn’t wear clothes that would be distracting for the boys. That was their concern.”
In response, the Neuner’s researched similar situations and found a popular hashtag amongst others who had faced this issue at their own schools: #IAmNotADistraction. Molly then donned a tank top with “thin” straps and wrote the hashtag on her arm, encouraging her female classmates to do the same and taking a permanent marker to school with her that day so she could write the hashtag on them. All-in-all, she wrote it on about 20 girls once she arrived.
Christina pointed to today’s rampant rape culture, in which female victims are made to feel like they asked for the violence imposed on them because of the way they dressed or acted, as originating with these dress codes because boys are taught that girls with certain clothing can be distracting and girls are taught to cover up. After the ‘protest’ held at school, principal Caitlin LeClair said that the school plans to review the dress code policies at the end of the school year and asked Molly to be a part of the review panel.
“I don’t believe we should be dictating fashion or measuring the length of shorts if it’s not a material and substantial distraction,” Portland District Superintendent Xavier Botana told the Portland Press Herald reported.”I would be hard-pressed to understand how the size of a strap makes a substantial and material disruption.”
Molly’s mom expressed pride in her daughter’s actions and her “bravery” in standing up and said in an Instagram post:
“This is not just about a tank top, it’s about years of underlying messages of shame to our girls that MUST stop.”