Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Male Student Sent to Principal for Wearing High Heels: Principal Heilmann, You Are Doing it Wrong

A male student at Riverview High School in Tampa Bay Florida was called out of class to the principal's office because he wore high heel shoes to school, reports Tampa Bay's Fox station. School principal Bob Heilmann decided it was best if the student not where the shoes and told him to take them off. See video below.

A teacher notified the school principal and said that the boy’s high heels were distracting to the classroom. ... Heilmann reports there was name calling, so he instructed the young man to remove the shoes.

“As a principal of a high school, I have to take the paternal side as well, I have to make sure he’s going to be okay,” Heilmann told Fox, adding he was worried the student would be subjected to bullying. “Anytime anyone goes out from, quote, ‘the norm,’ or anytime anyone wants to make a statement, you have to be willing to take what comes with it.”
Does Heilmann even realize what he's saying? If he has children of his own, then I feel sorry for them since his "paternal side" apparently encourages him to tell young people who are exploring sexual orientation or gender roles to "Stop that! People won't like you or be nice if you do that. Conform or die!"

In essence, Heilmann is in the namecallers' corner, empowering bullies rather than students who are bullied. He's punishing the student who wore the high heels instead of calling in the students who ostracize their peers and having a talk with them, or better yet, opting to send the bullies to some kind of counseling to explore why they believe they have the right to call another student names. It's probably too much to ask of a school in Florida also to discuss with those students societal constructs of gender and grand narratives about sexuality framed by heterosexual privilege. He missed the higher ground of this teachable moment.

A friend of the student, per the local station says the young man is "proud of who he is, but embarrassed now." Sad.

Apparently Heilmann doesn't keep up with social issues such as bullying or campaigns such as "It Gets Better." Consequently, he'll be remembered as a symptom of the disease students must "get better" from.

Props to the Tampa Bay Fox station for putting this story in context of the little boy whose mother was criticized for letting him dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. That mother shared her perspective on BlogHer.com this past November.


Denise said...

Same experience, same state, slightly different town.

My son was sent home from high school for wearing a skirt. His clothing was a distraction to the other students.

Even though his skirt did not violate dress codes - it was the proper length etc.

When I pointed out that girls wore the same skirt - he indicated girls in that skirt weren't a distraction.

When I pointed out the gentleman walking around with a confederate flag patch on his backpack, he said that unless it was a distraction to students it was fine.

I pointed out the boys walking by in beer t-shirts. Again, not a distraction.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thanks, Denise. I couldn't believe what I was hearing when I watched the video. My mind said, "Wait. Wait. What's wrong with this man? Does he hear himself?"

Did you get through at all to the one you spoke to?

Liz said...

It's so ridiculous that the principal took this attitude, instead of calling in the kids who were being disruptive, name calling or bullying, and correcting their behavior!

He's not doing any favors to the bullying kids by letting them continue on their path.

Andrea L. Cole said...

It's a disheartening story indeed.. but did anyone else find it was fitting with the blog's title? "Who's shoes are these anyway?"

Vérité Parlant said...

Yandie, hilarious! I didn't even catch that. Haha!

@Liz, you make an excellent point. I would want someone to stop my child from going the route of the bully.

LilySea said...

Yesterday, one of the ("male") kindergarteners in my daughter's class wore a pretty pink floral clip in his hair to school. Not a word of reproach from anyone and he is a "popular" kid in terms of having plenty of friends among both the boys and the girls.

I felt a pang of gratitude to the school and its leaders for creating such a safe and appreciative space for kids to explore. That was yesterday before I read this. Now I feel more than a pang. I am ready to kiss the feet of the administrators, teachers and parents who all value such a place enough to make it thrive.

All kids should be so lucky.