A Florida mom is outraged that her 15-year-old daughter was forced to wear what she called a “shame suit” at school.
On her third day of school, Miranda Larkin, a sophomore at Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida, was told by a teacher that her skirt was too short.
“It was right after first period,” Miranda told ABC News. “I was in the hallway and I got stopped by a teacher who told me my skirt was too short and sent me to the nurse’s office. They told me I was going to have to change and put on the dress-code-violation outfit.”
The school’s dress-code-violation outfit consists of a neon-yellow t-shirt with “DRESS CODE VIOLATION” emblazoned on the front of it in capital letters, along with red sweatpants with the same message down the right leg.
“The school has said this is to embarrass you,” said Miranda. “It’s supposed to embarrass you so you don’t do it again.”
For this student, it certainly accomplished that. Miranda said she was so upset she began breaking out in hives, snapping a photo of herself in the oversized tee so her mother could see the punishment.
“It was way too big. It didn’t fit,” she said. “I got really upset and asked if I could call my mom. She was really upset, as well.”
Oakleaf’s dress code dictates that skirts must be knee-length or longer. Miranda’s skirt was shorter than that, but she said the violation was unintentional. She was a new student to the school, having just moved to Florida from Seattle eight days before school started.
“She’s a good kid,” said Miranda’s mom, Dianna Larkin. “She actually has a perfect disciplinary record. I’m not a rescue mom. I really do believe in punishing my kids if they do something wrong, but this is not about punishing kids. This is about humiliation.”
A spokesman from the Clay County school district told ABC News affiliate WJXX in Jacksonville, Florida, that students who violate the dress code are given three options: to stay in their clothes and go to in-school-suspension, to wear the sweats and t-shirt as punishment and continue going to class as usual, or to arrange for someone to bring them a new set of clothes.
Miranda said she was only given one option -- to wear the humiliating outfit.
“Those options aren’t presented to you,” she said. “You have to ask for ISS. People who have asked if they can call home for a change of clothes have been told no.”
Her mother said the school bullied her daughter and violated her rights.
“I was trying to deal with this privately and was running into a brick wall,” Larkin said, explaining why she reached out to the media. “It was not my intention to embarrass the school district, but I just wasn’t getting anywhere.”
She is threatening to file a complaint with FERPA, The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, citing that a student’s record, including disciplinary actions, is private and cannot be released without her permission.
“This is harmful practice and it doesn’t teach anything,” said Larkin. “It doesn’t have any intrinsic educational value.”
In a letter to the media, Larkin wrote that she wanted to be “perfectly clear.”
“My problem is not with the dress code itself,” she wrote. “I am actually a proponent of school uniforms (which trust me does NOT make my kids happy), and believe that if you break the rules of the school you should be punished regardless of your opinion of the rule itself. My problem is with the public shaming of kids.”
Her daughter also felt this particular punishment was wrong.
“A punishment would be fair, but I don’t agree with the punishment they’ve been using,” Miranda said.
“It does not lessen the disruption in school, it enhances it,” Larkin added.
Gavin Rawlins, a spokesman for the school district, told ABC News the district is open to other solutions for dress code violations.
“We’re looking at all options, but what we’re not going to do is just change in a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “We take slow, deliberative action with things. This is what we thought was the best way to handle the situation at the time, but we’re certainly open to looking at other options. What we’re not open to doing is watering down discipline to students.”
The school’s violation outfits used to be much plainer and discreet, he added, but they kept getting stolen.
“The purpose of this is not to humiliate,” Rawlins said. “It’s to identify that it’s the school district’s clothing and reiterate that dress code violations will be addressed. The term ‘shaming’ has not been associated with this other than the mom’s own verbiage.”