Florida student who was forced to cover her nipples adds to the growing fight against schools sexualizing girls bodies

Julia Kocsis, Assistant Editor

Lizzy Martinez, a 17-year-old junior at Braden River High School in Bradenton, Florida was forced by school administrators to cover her nipples because they were allegedly distracting her classmates.

Martinez decided not to wear a bra under her gray long-sleeve shirt on Monday, April 2 due to a painful sunburn. That day, Violeta Velazquez, dean of the school, called Martinez into her office. Initially, Martinez thought it was because she was being bullied by fellow students, but Velazquez said that that was not what needed to be addressed.

She told Martinez that her “protruding nipples” were disrupting class and resulting in stares from her classmates.

Martinez says, “She told me that I needed to put a shirt on under my long-sleeve shirt to try to tighten my breasts — to constrict them, and then she asked me to move around.”

After this absurd and mortifying plan proved “unsatisfactory” to the dean, Martinez was sent to the nurse’s office where she was handed four bandages, two to cover each nipple. She cooperated, returned to her class visibly upset and soon after asked her mother to come pick her up.

When Martinez’s mother, Kari Knop, picked her up from school and was told what had happened she was furious. “I was beyond flabbergasted,” Knop said, “I don’t care if it’s a female dean — it’s not an appropriate request.”

The district claimed it was only trying to enforce the district’s dress code. However, the dress code does not even address or require bras.

This instance is part of a much larger, broader issue. “This isn’t something that’s only happened to Lizzie,” Knop said. “It happens to girls on a daily basis at schools and it’s time for change.”

Knop and her daughter, along with many others, support the belief that schools need to stop punishing girls for their bodies and interrupting their education. Martinez missed multiple days of school because she felt too embarrassed by the ridiculous, humiliating scene administrators had made.

The whole ordeal began because the dean claimed her nipples were causing a disruption to the learning environment, yet, the dean’s actions caused a much larger disruption. “The students that were laughing or snickering or talking about me, that should have been addressed, not me, because I wasn’t the issue there,” Martinez said.

The real issue in these incidents are the people who have perverse reactions towards a girl’s body, not the girl’s body itself. Martinez’s story is sparking a long overdue conversation about the fine line between a dress code and sexualizing girls because of the way they look in certain clothes.

The school admitted that “the situation should have been handled differently,” even though nothing that Martinez did needed “handling.” The only credible problem was the inappropriate actions and reactions of certain students and staff.  

The school’s Twitter account has since blocked Martinez’s Twitter account, instead of standing with her. But students from Braden River High School, including Martinez, are organizing a “bracott” on April 16. They encourage students to protest the issue of schools sexualizing girls bodies by not wearing bras or by wearing bandages on top of their shirts, where their nipples are.

Wake County Public School’s dress code prohibits “revealing clothing” and “showing undergarments” but does not specifically address whether students need to wear a bra or not.