Mom Says School Shamed & Victim-Blamed Her Teen Over Ripped Jeans

ripped jeans
Melissa McKinlay/Facebook

Different school dress codes can be a hot-button issue for adolescents, their parents, teachers, and administrators. But all too often, it seems young women are overwhelmingly targeted over their male peers when it comes to the rules. A recent, eyebrow-raising example out of Florida is making national headlines. On September 13, Melissa McKinlay, a mom and the mayor of Palm Beach County, took to Facebook to detail how her daughter was placed in "in-school suspension" for wearing ripped jeans.

  • In what she described as a "mom rant," McKinlay addressed the Palm Beach County School District and shared a photo of her daughter's jeans.

    "My daughter wore a pair of jeans today to school," McKinlay wrote. "They had a hole in the knee."

    She went on to explain that it was in the middle of a quiz in a history class that "a male administrator came to classroom, told her 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."

    McKinlay's understandable reaction to this turn of events: "I'm sorry but EXCUSE ME? Perhaps she should have worn a different pair of jeans. But why should she have to worry about dressing a certain way to curtail a boy’s potential behavior? 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?"

    Not to mention that, as McKinlay pointed out, this controversy was over "a damn KNEE. Did he pull the boys out who were wearing shorts? They have TWO knees showing?"

    For the infuriated mom, the incident boiled down to "sexism. Victim blaming. Girl shaming," and she called for the administrator to be suspended. After all, she asked, how could a bare knee affect one's ability to concentrate? "I’d like to think her intelligence & quick wit, beautiful smile and wicked sense of humor might. Her knee?" McKinlay wrote.

    After signing the letter "FURIOUS PARENT," the mayor wrote in a P.S. that she could understand her daughter getting "a lunch detention for being slightly out of dress code, so be it. But this? No. Not an appropriate response. EVER."

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  • McKinlay's post quickly caught the attention of local parents, with some commenting that they could understand the dress code issue but not the punishment. 

  • Others empathized with McKinlay and her daughter, expressing pure outrage and calling the incident "misogynistic" and "infuriating."

  • In a follow-up post on September 14, McKinlay said she had spoken with the school's principal and feels "confident they are addressing the situation."

    It's heartening to see that McKinlay, the principal, and the school board were able to get in sync on the issue. But as McKinlay points out, by noting the need for sensitivity training, there is still more work to be done. 

    Let's hope this incident also empowers other parents to stand up against victim-blaming, shaming, and downright sexist treatment of their daughters in schools all over the country.