Dress code controversy at local school shared on national platform

VIDEO: Dress code controversy at local school will be shared on national platform
(Source: Suzie Webster)
(Source: Suzie Webster)
(Source: Suzie Webster)
(Source: Suzie Webster)

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A Mount Pleasant middle school student shared her story of how she was called out for a skirt she wore to school, though she didn't break the dress code, with a national audience Tuesday morning.

Moultrie Middle School 6th grader Reese Franyo says she was shocked when she was told to call her mom for a change of clothes. Franyo and her mother shared their story Tuesday morning on The TD Jakes Show.

"I got stopped by my art teacher telling me that my skirt was too short," Franyo told Live 5 News beforehand.

She said it was a skirt that she had worn many times before without any problems. This time, she was sent the principal's office.

"He explained to me why we had the dress code... because boys will get distracted by how short our outfits are," Franyo said.

Reese's mom, Suzie Webster, measured the length of the skirt while in the office — it met school rules. If you attend the school, your skirt cannot come more than five inches above your knee.

Suzie said it was what she was told the teacher said to her daughter that was the last straw.

"As Reese was walking away, she yelled down the hall at her that she looked like she belonged in a club," Webster said.  "For me that was kind of the final straw."

Webster wrote about it on Facebook and the post got a lot of attention online, with and several media outlets picking up the story.

Reese's birthday was the day after the incident, so her mom decided to take a picture with the same outfit to show support.

"The message wasn't really about the school, the message was a bigger message about just how important it is to really support our kids and make them feel confident in their own skin," Webster said. "We decided it was more important to turn the message to just talking about creating a feeling of empowerment for young girls and giving them the opportunity to feel good about themselves."

Webster says the post has prompted a lot of other parents and students worldwide to reach out to them, including girls and boys who have gone through similar experiences.

"We should be able to wear what we would like we shouldn't have to be able to dress differently because what guys see in us," Franyo said.

"I think there is a high risk for girls to develop a sense of shame unnecessarily because of the judgment that adults, and in this case her teachers, were imposing upon her," Dr. Christina Villareal, Clinical psychologist said on the T.D. Jakes Show. "I think that can have a negative impact on a child who is still developing."

Bishop Jakes commended Webster for dressing in a skirt like her daughter and posting it on social media, saying she's a mother that has her daughter's back.

"I often tell my children you don't go to school or anywhere else to find out who you are, you know who you are because of what we taught you at home, Jakes said. "Hold fast to the principles that are in your house," he told Franyo.

Charleston County School District Officials say the teacher who made the comment was addressed and corrected. The district also released the following statement:

"In no way do we want any student to feel it's their fault in how someone views them when it comes to what they wear. However, in this situation, we do not feel Principal Cumback intentionally set out to embarrass the student. He never told her, nor her parent, she could not wear the skirt. He did ask the student to be cognizant of the skirt going above the five-inch line when walking and sitting. Mr. Cumback explained to the parent that dress code violations are distracting to both male and female students and everyone is treated equally."

District officials say there are more dress code violations committed by boys than girls at Moultrie Middle School.

The president of the school's PTA also released a statement saying in part:

"As the PTO president, I have had almost daily interactions with Mr. Cumback.  In his time at Moultrie, I have witnessed his dedication to academics and his fair treatment of all students. I have been impressed with his open door policy with students, parents and teachers..... In my experience, he is always even-handed in enforcing the dress code and other school policies. I have had nothing but a positive experience with Mr. Cumback, and I am dismayed that he has been misrepresented in this way."

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