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'They shamed my daughter': High school dress code incident sparks controversy

An outraged mother is speaking out about a dress code controversy at her daughter’s school.

Last Friday, Sophia, a junior at Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, Texas, called her mother in tears. She had been called out for a dress code violation because an administrator had deemed her dress too short.

School officials wanted her mom, Rosey Abuabara, to bring Sophia a pair of pants to wear for the rest of the afternoon.

Abuabara shared this photo of the striped tunic dress that Sophia, 17, wore that day:

“Don't understand how this is a dress code violation,” Abuabara wrote in the caption. “She's 5'9". It's hard to find anything that fits longer.”

After her daughter called her, Abuabara hurried to the school. She didn’t bring a change of clothes, because she worried that having to change would be stressful and embarrassing for Sophia, who was taking three major tests that afternoon.

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Instead, Abuabara met with the school principal, Dr. Jerry Woods. She told him she had measured the dress earlier to make sure it complied with the district dress code, which requires skirts and dresses to fall “no more than four inches above the top of the kneecap.”

“He said that it did not matter,” Abuabara told TODAY Style. “He said what mattered was the judgment call from the administrator.

“He was really concerned about my daughter getting pictures taken of her climbing up stairs,” Abuebara added. “Well, she’s going to climb up stairs when she’s in college. I don’t know. It got kind of crazy.”

She also said that Woods “laughed” when she explained how upset Sophia was about being called out for her outfit.

“The principal laughed because he thought that it wasn’t anything for her to be crying about,” Abuabara said. “I told him that was a very sexist thing to say.”

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The meeting became more tense and at one point, according to Abuabara, Woods asked her if she needed to call her husband to help deal with the situation.

“I said, ‘No, sir, I do not need my husband here to take care of this,’” she recalled in a Facebook video. “I am a grown woman and I can take care of this myself.”

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Eventually, when she refused to leave, the campus police escorted Abuabara out of the school.

In the end, Sophia was allowed to stay and finish her tests, though the principal did try to pull her out of her Latin exam, she told her mom.

“The teacher told him to wait,” Abuabara wrote in an Instagram post. “She finished her exam and spoke with him. She said just knowing she needed to talk to him messed with her concentration.”

Barry Perez, a spokesman for Northside Independent School District, issued a statement to TODAY about the incident.

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“This issue was addressed by campus administrators in a manner consistent with other dress code concerns on their campus,” he said. “The student was not taken out of class during a test. She visited with a campus administrator after her test was completed. No disciplinary action was issued. Campus administrators have met with the student and her parents to discuss the matter and it has been resolved.”

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However, even though she was not disciplined, her mom said the whole ordeal left Sophia feeling hurt and confused.

“They shamed my daughter,” Abuabara said. “She’s worn this dress to school before, and nobody told her anything … She didn’t understand why this time, there was a problem.”

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Abuabara also worries about the wider message this incident sends.

“My daughter is number one in her class," she said in a Facebook video. "She is class president, she has raised thousands of dollars for the school prom."

But, she said, "apparently the length of her skirt is more important than her education.”

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