A defiant teen alleges she was manhandled before being thrown into a juvenile detention center, all because the shirt she wore made a teacher feel “unsafe.” Take a look, then decide if you believe her story and think she deserved to be locked up.
Isabella Messer went to war with the Hopkinsville High School board in Christian County, Kentucky, after it allegedly changed the dress code to forbid shirts that bared shoulders. According to Messer’s mother, Theresa Rucks, her daughter was unaware of what she claims is a new rule change until she was suspended for breaking it when she wore a shirt that showed her shoulders.
Outraged by the suspension, Rucks decided to help her daughter protest what they thought was an unfair rule, according to Yahoo! News. But, neither anticipated that the “peaceful protest” would land the teen in juvenile detention. That’s exactly what happened, however, when Rucks helped Messer make a T-shirt that read “Do my shoulders turn you on?” on the front.
On the back, the shirt said, “If so, go back to the 1920’s,” and Messer proudly wore the bold blue shirt with the equally bold statement for two days. Then, things took an unexpected turn for the teen. As Messer sat in her fourth-period class, the teacher pulled her from class. This teacher just so happened to be the same one who previously suspended Messer over her bare shoulders, and the educator had an issue with Messer’s new top, too.
Although the shirt did not physically violate the dress code since the neckline was high, the sleeves nearly reached her elbows, and it went below her waist, there was another issue. “[Nathan] Howton the [assistant principal], told me that the teacher that originally hit her with a violation for the off-the-shoulder shirt felt that [the shirt’s statement] was harassment,” Rucks alleged. Later, she claims, the school’s new principal, John Gunn, and someone from the school board told her the violation was actually for “sexual content.”
Regardless of the reason for the teacher’s complaint, Messer resisted going to the office over the dress code protesting shirt. “I said, it goes to my neck, it’s not a dress code violation, and I tried to call my mom and they tried to take my phone from me,” Messer said. That’s when things took a turn for the worst.
According to a police report, the teen became uncooperative and loud in the lobby. A school resource officer was present and attempted to take away Messer’s phone, but she pulled away. She was eventually handcuffed, but at some point, the assistant principal noticed that the teen still had her phone in her hands behind her back.
When the officer reached for her phone, Messer kicked him in his shin. The teen, however, claims it was just her instinct to put her foot up and stop him. “She trains in Taekwondo,” Rucks said, excusing the kick. “Anyone who trains in Taekwondo is going to have that automatic instinct,” she furthered. However, any respectable Taekwondo instructor would teach their students to have restraint and use fighting as a last resort. Also, it’s always a good idea to obey an officer’s commands and respect their authority, even if you don’t agree with them at the time.
Rucks was then notified, but the teen was not released into her mother’s custody. Instead, Isabella Messer was arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. Furious, the family states Messer is the one who was assaulted, claiming the scuffle left marks on the teen’s wrists and neck — marks which Messer’s grandmother photographed and posted on social media.
Messer was transported to McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center, where she spent an unpleasant six days. “It was freezing, and the blankets were super thin, and the clothes were super thin,” she said. “The food tasted super horrible too, so I was not eating a lot,” she added, describing the detention center, where she further alleges she was with girls who had stabbed other kids and attempted murder.
Messer was eventually released for her first court date, which also happened to be her 15th birthday. However, she did not return to school. Instead, her mother enrolled her in an alternative school. When the teen isn’t at school, she’s on house arrest and allegedly can’t even go outside to her own backyard, pending her next court date, which was scheduled for the following month.
“All Christian County Public Schools have a dress code for students,” the Christian County Board of Education said in a statement, according to the Kentucky New Era. “Our students along with their parents and guardians are aware of dress code rules and the code’s enforcement.”
Theresa Rucks is standing behind her daughter and has launched a #SupportBella campaign on social media — complete with shirts, of course. “I’m not under any circumstances sending her back to that school,” Rucks said, supporting Messer’s desire to attend an online homeschool rather than return to Hopkinsville High School after her “peaceful protest” turned into something else. The only question is, who’s fault was that?