Education

'Do my nipples offend you?' Braden River students support classmate with 'bracott'

These students will support the #Bracott movement; with their voices

A group of Braden River students discuss their reaction to what happened to classmate Lizzy Martinez when she didn't wear a bra to school, and how they will support the Bracott movement by using social media and speaking out.
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A group of Braden River students discuss their reaction to what happened to classmate Lizzy Martinez when she didn't wear a bra to school, and how they will support the Bracott movement by using social media and speaking out.

Students taking part in Monday's "bracott" at Braden River High School were undeterred by the possible repercussions.

Students took part in the protest by wearing bandages or a message on their shirts. Some girls left their bra at home, and others simply voiced their support. It was unclear how many students participated.

The School District of Manatee County said in an email to parents last week that school officials would focus on "limiting disruptions" during the protest, which was sparked by the high school's response to a dress code violation on April 2.

Lizzy Martinez, 17, was wearing a gray long-sleeve shirt and no bra when administrators said her nipples were causing a distraction. A dean told her to put on a second shirt and then to cover her nipples with bandages.

Martinez, who organized the protest, declined to comment Monday.

A school district spokesman also declined to comment.

One group of four girls and two boys met outside the school on Monday morning. They said the bracott had spread to other campuses, including Lakewood Ranch High School, and that students from other states expressed interest on social media.

Sami Drouin, 17, wore a white shirt that read, "Do my nipples offend you?" She said Braden River is known for its strict enforcement of the dress code.

"Knowing that she was dress-coded for not wearing a bra wasn't surprising," Drouin said. "But then, after hearing what the administration made her do, I think that's what really brought up this movement."

The Manatee Code of Student Conduct does not specifically address or require bras. However, it does prohibit students from wearing "clothes that expose underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner," along with "attire that disrupts the orderly learning environment."

Students who support the bracott said Martinez's long-sleeve shirt was far from vulgar. Bree McCallister, 17, said she hopes women's nipples will no longer be considered a distraction but rather a normal part of their body.

"Some people will compare male sexual organs to females, and it's not the same thing, because breasts are mammary glands and they shouldn't be sexualized," McCallister said.

The district emailed parents last Friday, stating that any demonstrations would be met with strict enforcement of the dress code. Students should be focused on testing and graduation, and the protest could impede on valuable class time, the message read.

The district said it recently allowed students to participate in a 17-minute walkout to honor the Parkland shooting victims. However, no further walkouts or protests would be allowed.

"In the interest of preserving instructional time, we are emphatically stating that additional disruptions to instructional time or the normal operations of our schools are in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the email read.

While the district said it was focused on limiting distractions, some students felt school officials were stifling the concerns of people involved in Monday's bracott.

Jenna Mennes, 17, said social media allows her generation to be heard. Whether it be in school or on Twitter, she said the conversation would continue.

"I feel that everyone, especially the administration, tries to keep it private to the point where they act like nothing happened, and I think they get a little frustrated when us students are reaching out to the cause," she said. "We have a voice and it should be heard."

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