When you send your child off to school, you expect that the people who’ve been employed to care for them will have their best interests at heart. You hope that not only will your child receive an education, but that at the very least, they’ll be treated with the kindness and respect that all human beings deserve. You don’t anticipate that they’ll be body-shamed for their clothes, and given unsolicited fashion advice based on their size.
Unfortunately, that’s reportedly what happened recently at one high school in South Carolina, where a principal allegedly instructed students not to wear leggings to school “unless you are a size zero or 2.” And that’s not all: According to reports, the principal also said that if “you wear something like that, even though you’re not fat, you look fat.”
The shocking comments were allegedly made during assemblies for 9th- and 10th-graders at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, and were captured on an audio recording obtained by local news station WCBD-TV.
There is just so much wrong here, I almost don’t know where to begin. For one, these types of remarks aren’t just rude — they’re potentially damaging. Especially for teen girls, who are in a vulnerable phase of life and are likely already dealing with body image issues. And just consider this: According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “the best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction.” What’s more, girls are already starting to show signs of concern about about their weight or body shape — as early as age 6. In fact, the NEDA reports that “40-60 percent of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.”
If this is true of elementary students, then just imagine how true it can be for girls when they enter high school; where social status and attractiveness become increasingly important. Trust me, I should know — I’ve seen it play out in my own personal life. A friend of mine suffered a heart attack in high school brought on by her anorexia, and I’ve had family members who have struggled with eating disorders, too. I’ve even practiced unhealthy dieting habits myself at various times in my life — and sadly, I know I’m far from alone.
Some Stratford High students and their parents are understandably upset by the remarks, which were reportedly made by Principal Heather Taylor, and have been calling the school and taking to Facebook to express their disgust.
“I’m not a size zero and I kind of felt targeted because of my size,” Allison Veazey, a sophomore at Stratford High told WCBD-TV.
And who could blame her? What’s especially heartbreaking about this story, is that instead of building the students up or making them feel comfortable in the skin they’re in, the comments implied that each student’s worth was determined by nothing more than their clothing size. By a number. And one not even a healthy size for many girls and women, depending on their height and body type. In fact, new research shows that being a size zero is not actually healthy for many women and may lead to long-term health issues such as Osteoporosis.
Additionally, sending the message that a girl should choose clothing based on how others will think she looks is just plain wrong. Girls should be dressing for themselves — not for a principal or for anyone else.
Babble reached out to Stratford High School, but the school declined to comment. However, a statement was issued to the press Thursday, in which Principal Taylor apologized for the harm her words might have caused:
“Yesterday and this morning, I met with each class of the Stratford High School student body,” the statement reads, according to People. “I addressed a comment made during a 10th-grade assembly and shared from my heart that my intention was not to hurt or offend any of my students in any way. I’m so remorseful, and I have learned a lesson. You learn, no matter what, every single day you learn.
After speaking with our students and receiving their support, I am confident that, together, we are ready to move forward and have a wonderful year. Stratford High is a very caring community, and I want to thank all of our parents and students who have offered their support to me and provided me with an opportunity to directly address their concern. I am very proud to be a Stratford Knight.”
According to WCBD, Principal Taylor also posted her contact information on Facebook so parents could reach her directly. I for one sure hope they will. And I’m glad that Taylor has taken responsibility and acknowledged how hurtful her words were.
Because the bottom line is this: We all need to be doing more to support our kids and build their self-esteem early — especially during those all-too-vulnerable teen years. And that starts with the messages we’re sending them about what truly defines their worth. (Which, by the way, has nothing to do with how they look in a pair of leggings.)
h/t: WCBD News