Manatee County Schools tweaking dress code in response to bra controversy

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - The Manatee County School District is firing back at the ACLU in the wake of a bra controversy.

Last month, we told you about a 17-year-old girl who said she was humiliated for not wearing a bra in class. Now the district is updating the dress code.     

Last month, Braden River High School student Lizzy Martinez says she wore a baggy shirt without a bra and fellow students found it distracting.

She was taken to the dean's office, humiliated and told to cover her nipples with band aids.

"There's nothing sexy about a nipple, like everybody has them. You don't look at boy's nipples and drool over them,” said Martinez.

The ACLU fired back at the school district, saying school officials discriminately enforce the dress code and prevented students from protesting.

"That is 100 percent inaccurate,” said school general counsel Mitch Teitelbaum. 

Teitelbaum blasted the ACLU for exaggerating the story. In his letter to the organization he wrote, "the alleged actions taken at the school level as contained in the [ACLU] letter are simply untrue and appear exaggerated and embellished for purposes media sensationalism."

“The ACLU relies on certain versions of facts from people they interview, and those versions of facts are unfortunately not entirely correct,” said Teitelbaum.

He has tweaked the dress code so it’s no longer ambiguous. In the past, the dress code used the word "distraction," so now the dress code will now clearly state that a female or a male's clothing can't cause a "disruption" in class.

Teitelbaum explains this will keep it in uniformity with the Florida statutes so there will be no ambiguity.

"The Florida statute, which I refer to, does not require a student to wear any type of undergarments to match their gender. That is not going to be imposed or added to this dress code,” explained Teitelbaum.

The ACLU is not happy with the school district’s actions.

“We’re disappointed in the school district’s response to our demand that they stop enforcing the dress code in a matter that discriminates teens based on their sex. They’ve given no indication that they will take correction action,” said Michael Barfield with the ACLU of Florida.

Barfield adds that the organization did not embellish the story.

“Pointing out their conduct doesn’t sensationalize anything but their conduct. They pulled her out of class and had her parading around the principal’s office in a matter that was humiliating. So bringing awareness to their conduct, they only have themselves to blame for that. They shouldn’t be pointing the finger back at us,” said Barfield.

The ACLU is assessing what it will do next.

For its part, the Manatee County School District admits this situation could've been handled better, but they stress this isn't a gender issue. They say its about fostering a non-disruptive environment in the classroom.

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