Sir Richard Branson is Metro’s guest editor today, and he weighed in on a local story about a Queens sophomore who school officials told not to wear a shirt emblazoned with the word “vagina.”
Brianna Demato, 15, said she walked out of Newtown High School in Elmhurst Tuesday. This was after officials asked her to change a bright red T-shirt that featured a logo similar to the Coca Cola slogan. But instead, Demato’s shirt read, “Enjoy Vagina.”
Branson, well known for his liberal views on sex and who founded the cheekily named Virgin Airlines, scoffed at the school’s mandate.
“She should be allowed to do a bit of campaigning,” Branson told Metro. “Of course she should stay at school, that’s ridiculous.”
He also spoke from personal experience about words others consider taboo.
“When we first came up with the name ‘Virgin,’ we weren’t allowed to register it for five years, because they said it was rude,” he said. “And we ended up having to go to the English dictionary to prove that ‘virgin’ was actually the opposite of rude.”
Demato, who said she is bisexual, called it unfair that she was sent home for a word she said is used in class.
Branson agreed, saying, “I mean, most women have vaginas, so why shouldn’t they be able to mention it?”
Officials asked her to change the shirt, she said, but instead, she chose to go home. Her mother, Cathy Demato, said her daughter was a victim of discrimination.
Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the decision to ask her to change the shirt was consistent with their discipline code, which gives officials the ability to decide whether clothing is disruptive to education.
“The language on the shirt was likely to cause disruption, and the language is inappropriate for school,” she told Metro.
Feinberg added that the principal gave her a gym shirt to wear instead, which she declined, and he was going to give her school work to do in a separate room until her mother picked her up and took her home.
(Courtesy of Spreadshirt.com)