Raising kids, especially during the teen years, when they face intense scrutiny from their peers for the way they look and the way they dress, is never straightforward.
But parents always hope that their child’s teachers and school administrators will be a source of sanity at this fashion-crazed age and remind students that learning should be their first priority.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for 12-year-old Morgan Bentley, who is from the suburbs of Indianapolis.
When Morgan was called into the office at Franklin Township Middle School, along with several other students, she wasn’t sure why she was in trouble. She hadn’t misbehaved in class or broken any of the school’s rules, at least as she far as she knew.
After Morgan arrived, she was confronted by the school’s vice principal with the reason for being summoned. But it wasn’t any of the disciplinary issues you might expect that prompted the intervention—it was Morgan’s jeans! According to the school administration, the skinny jeans that the young teen was wearing were just a little too skinny for the school’s dress code, which prohibits “form-fitting” clothing.
But rather than simply asking Morgan to tell her parents about the “problem,” the 12-year-old was suspended from school! Her mother, Traci Hull, received an email about the issue and was stunned at the course of action the school took.
— Daily Mail Femail (@Femail) November 22, 2015
Morgan’s mom explained why she was so angry to WTHR in Indianapolis. “I feel like there’s nothing inappropriate about a skinny jean. I’m her mother, I’m not going to send her in anything that I feel is inappropriate.” Moreover, Traci Hull told WRTV in Indianapolis that her daughter had been wearing these same pants the whole year without any previous complaints from the school administration.
The next day, Morgan was told once again that her jeans were too skinny. Her father, Rodney Bentley, couldn’t believe what the school was doing. “We switched pants three different times and three different times they sent her home,” he told WTHR.
But what was the family to do, short of replacing Morgan’s entire wardrobe? Part of the problem is that as Morgan is a thin and lanky teenager going through a growth spurt, the family had difficulty finding anything that fit her. Even if they could get baggier pants, they might just be falling off Morgan’s thin waist all the time.
Though her parents were really frustrated with what they perceived as the school making their lives difficult, they made a good-faith attempt to find some new clothes. As dad Rodney Bentley told WTHR, “Me and Morgan went to Kohl’s and Target and we spent over two hours there going through sweat pants, zero fitting jeans, everything and none of them would fit her.”
From Morgan’s mom’s perspective, the whole process was a terrible ordeal for a teenage girl who’s already hyper aware of how her appearance is perceived by others. “To go into that fitting room and to try on several different clothes and for them to not fit you appropriately […] or that someone is going to judge her, of course it’s going to affect her self-esteem. It’s heartbreaking to us.”
Most of all, Morgan’s parents were upset about the massive disruption the whole issue had caused in the middle of the school year. “It is unfathomable to me that there is this big of an issue on her dress code and not her education,” Traci Hull said to WRTV.
After all the outrage caused by the incident, the school finally clarified what exactly it meant by clothes that were too “form fitting.” After Morgan was suspended from Wednesday to Friday, that weekend, the school issued a note to parents. As quoted in WTHR:
“Any pair of pants that have ‘back pockets’ will be considered appropriate to wear at school. Items of clothing that clearly have no back pockets and are forming [sic] fitting will be considered a violation of the schools dress code. Examples of this include yoga pants and leggings.”
However, the broader question of how the school was deciding what was “appropriate” or not and why they chose to make such an example out a 12-year-old remains unclear.