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No 'Bust, Bellies, Or Butts' — Middle School Asks Girls To Bend Over In Mirror To Verify Dress Code

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Girl dress-coded at school

A family in Charlotte North Carolina is pointing a finger at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for discriminating against female students for dress code violations. 

In a Title IX accusation shared with WCNC, the family reveals statements from the dean of students at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius, North Carolina. 

The family claims that these statements have traumatized their middle school daughter. 

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A family has accused the North Carolina middle school of multiple Title IX violations and regarding the enforcement of the dress code for female students.

"This conduct is unacceptable and under Title IX, the district has a duty to address and prevent further instances," said the complaint from the family. 

Title IX complaints let students submit allegations of sex-based discrimination, including complaints of sexual harassment, or sexual violence.  

Josie Mell, the complainant, initially had positive things to say about her school.

“It has a lot of clubs, and a lot of really fun electives, and the common core teachers are really nice," Mell said. 

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The incident at Bailey Middle School on August 31st changed this student’s feelings toward her school dramatically.

“Well, we get lectures, pretty much every day about something at lunch," Mell said. "So that morning, we were expecting to get a lecture.”

These lectures are led by the dean of students, Lydia Woodbury.

Mell explained, "Normally, she has this chant about the seven habits of highly effective teens."

"So we were expecting her to have us chant. And when we got there, she started on a lecture about dress code," she continues.

Via the complaint, Woodbury stated that there would be “a new dress standard for the girls at school.”

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Ms. Woodbury told the girls that they needed to "bend down" in front of the mirror every morning to check the dress code.

"She [Woodbury] mentioned that we had to bend down in our mirror every morning and stretch in front of our mirror every morning to make sure that we were in compliance with the dress code."

Mell then revealed "Ms. Woodbury had us start chanting 'bust, belly, butt' continuously for around two minutes.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) maintained that the dean of students “did say those words; however, no chanting of those words was forcibly led or encouraged.”

Bailey Middle School Principal Chad Thomas claimed that the topic of dress code violations was brought up through student inquiries.

“Mrs. Woodbury addressed these which inadvertently led to the students chanting," Thomas wrote in an email that was sent to community members regarding the events on Aug. 31.

“She has students chant seven habits and other things on a regular basis. I believe this was an incident that simply got away from her."

He apologized and made it clear that no student was singled out for their gender.

The Mell family has not received an apology from CMS regarding the Title IX complaint against the school.

Mell's mother explained, "I haven't spoken to anyone at the school in leadership."

"My guess is that they would like this to go away. However, they're still targeting girls for dress code," Deborah Mell said.

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The Mells accused the district of changing the disciplinary dress code online after the incident happened to explicitly alter gender-specific language.

The Bailey Middle School Dress Code document has since been removed from the school's website.

“Shirts exposing the stomach, being excessively tight, see-through, low-cut or showing bra straps should not be worn," the now removed dress code stated.

CMS denied making any changes to the dress code following the August 31st incident.

The district then sent an email to parents with a document claiming to be the most current Bailey Middle School dress code.

Another variation of the school’s dress code that differs from the one the Mell family and CMS provided was found on the school website, which has been removed as well.

Thomas included in the email, "We adjusted our dress code this year to be a little more flexible with the current trends in student attire."

Howard Mell rebuttals the statement saying “They haven't really made a change other than to quietly cover their tracks, which only indicates to me that they know there is a problem.”

Neither the principal nor the superintendent reached out to the Mell family.

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The Title IX coordinator has been the only person to reach out to the family regarding the process of investigating their claims.

“Not only was this chant humiliating and the instruction to ‘bend over in front of a mirror each morning' extremely off-putting, the fact that the dean of students was calling such attention to girls' bodies and physical attributes continues to concern Josie," the claim read. 

Although the dean of students seemingly did not direct this statement toward Josie, she felt targeted due to a dress code incident the year prior.

“She last year had worn a sleeveless shirt, but with very thick fabric on the shoulders to picture day," Josie’s father, Howard said, "And she kind of perked up like, 'oh, they're talking about me.'"

Principal Thomas made a point to state in his email to families “Please know that students were not asked to stand or singled out by gender for any portion of the conversation in lunch.”

The CMS spokesperson revealed, “Principal Chad Thomas has not received any calls or emails from the Mell family regarding the cafeteria incident on Aug. 31."

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The Mells stated they made multiple calls to the principal's office regarding the August 31st incident, which the school denied.

Howard said, “I immediately just called the school, she [Josie] was sitting right by me."

The person who answered asked what the call was concerning and said they could leave a voicemail for Principal Thomas.

He revealed he even called the school back once more before taking to Twitter to his daughters experience.

The district released an email stating they were aware of the issue and that the superintendent of the region knows about Josie Mell’s story.

“It shows that the school really doesn't think this was an issue," Howard said.

"In fact, what I do know because several of my friends and colleagues reached out to the school and kind of indicated their feeling that this isn't right. They all got exactly the same letter back from Chad Thomas," he continued.

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Josie Mell’s parents are not against a dress code, but believe there could have been a much better way to enforce it.

Deborah said, “A lot of kids didn't seem to realize that it was wrong.”

“As they were talking, as friends were talking, they were really trying to plan out how they were going to stretch in the morning to look at themselves," Josie's mother explained.

Josie demands to see a change at her middle school.

“It's teaching the boys at our school that girls can be treated like objects, and that we can be treated like we are there for boys to look at," Josie asserted.

The family was asked what they were looking for from the school officials involved, to which they replied, “An apology.”

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Annabelle Miller is a writer based in Connecticut. She covers news, celebrity gossip, and pop culture topics.

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