A Minnesota mother is taking a stand after her five-year-old daughter was reprimanded by her teacher for wearing a sundress.
On April 16, Emily Stewart’s daughter Harmony arrived at school excited to show off a new dress that had been a gift from her grandmother. At the end of the day, the Hugo, Minn. mom arrived for school pick up to find her daughter wearing a pink T-shirt.
According to Stewart, her daughter was instructed to leave her classroom and visit the school nurse who gave her the T-shirt to cover herself.
“I asked [Harmony] when I picked her up, ‘Why are you wearing a T-shirt?’” Stewart wrote in a Facebook post detailing the incident. “She said, ‘I was told I had to put something on because I needed privacy.’”
The incident left Stewart’s daughter visibly upset — the kindergartener broke down in tears and said the experience was “super embarrassing.”
“It didn’t occur to me that an adult would look at my five-year-old child and think that wearing a dress was inappropriate,” Stewart wrote. “How do I teach a little girl that what she wears and her appearance is not nearly as important as her education and self development when things like this happen?”
Stewart said she wanted to share her story not to call out the school, but to open up a discussion about how girls are taught to feel ashamed of their bodies from an early age.
“As a mother, how am I supposed to teach my daughter to love and celebrate her body when she has people telling her she needs privacy?” She asked. “What exactly is private about a five-year-old’s shoulders?... Why was her dress looked at as an inappropriate outfit to begin with? She is 5, why is she being sexualized?”
Stewart confronted the school about the supposed dress code violation and learned that school policy bans children from wearing spaghetti straps.
In a statement to FOX9 news, the school’s principal, Jason Healy said the school was “reviewing” dress code policy, and added that “the student dress and appearance policy has been an item of discussion this year in White Bear Lake Area Schools.”
In an update to Facebook on April 19, Stewart shared an email from Healy about updated dress code which she said “no longer includes the ability for adults to make determinations about the appropriateness of a child’s body.”
With more than 27,000 shares on Facebook, it’s clear that Stewart isn’t the only parent willing to go to bat for their child.
“In case you didn’t get the message...don’t mess with my baby,” Stewart captioned a photo with her daughter. “Or I’m coming after you.”