Childrearing

Teenager Stupidly Escorted Off Campus For ‘I Enjoy Vagina’ Bisexual Shirt

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We send our children to school with the belief that teachers and administrators will educate them, care for them and protect them the way that we, their own parents, would. If that includes ostracizing and ridiculing, then two east coast schools get gold stars this week.

A sophomore in a Queens high school was faced with an ultimatum:  lose your shirt or lose your friends.  Brianna Demato came to school wearing a t-shirt that read “I enjoy Vagina.”  By lunchtime she was told to change the shirt or suffer the consequence of learning her lessons from an instructional workbook in a separate room, away from other students.    Anyone who remembers the importance of fitting in as a young teenager knows the threat of turning one into a social outcast holds a lot of power.  But this student held firm to her beliefs.

The 15-year-old bisexual refused to change claiming the school administrators were violating her right to free speech.  The school supports their decision, saying the shirt was “likely to cause disruption” and “inappropriate for school.”  Demato on the other hand, finds that statement hypocritical telling reporters, “[t]hey use the word in class — why can’t I, on a shirt?”

Demato has a great point.  These are teenagers who are presumably taking sexual education classes in the very same school.  Why should the word “vagina” be so disruptive?  Could a word that is found in their own textbooks be inappropriate?  No 15-year-old should be unfamiliar with the term.

If the point of the administrator’s actions was to side-step a distraction, their own behavior ensured a failure.  Upon receiving a call from the dean that her daughter was being dismissed, Demato’s mother came rushing to the school to make a point.  When the mom insisted her daughter wasn’t hurting anyone and that the shirt should stay, she says the dean called campus police to escort them off the school premises (Education Department officials refute this claim saying the mom and teen left on their own.)

Demato’s mother insists the shirt is not a distraction and insinuates her daughter is being singled out for her sexuality.  “You can’t stop somebody from being who they are,” she said. “My daughter is whoever she wants to be.”   It’s also unlikely that Demato’s t-shirt announced something new to her classmates.  If she was willing to wear the shirt, she was probably open about her sexuality.  The shirt’s catchphrase wasn’t likely to be noteworthy among her peers.

The Queens bisexual shirt scandal comes on the heels of the 16-year-old in Philadelphia being ridiculed by her teacher for wearing a Romney/Ryan shirt.  The teacher taunted the girl saying “don’t you know we are a Democratic school?”  and comparing the shirt to a sheet worn by the KKK.   The teacher then reportedly enlisted the help of a non-teaching assistant who tried to write on the t-shirt with a marker.  After the encounter the teenage girl ran to the bathroom in tears.

No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, the way these schools treated the girls donning the “offending” t-shirts is unacceptable.  It’s one thing to enforce a dress code, but the means used were out of line.  Ostracizing, threatening, bullying and ridiculing – these are behaviors we try to manage in our teenagers.  We demand more from our school administrators and teachers.

(photo: (DM7 / Shutterstock)