My daughter is 14 years old. This seems to have been an issue since the beginning of this school year last September. She has constantly been refusing to do it, never taking her PE kit to school, and last week ended up having to do the lesson in her underwear as the teacher has finally had enough!

What are others' suggestions how to deal with this?

  • She's 14. This seems to have been an issue since the beginning of this school year last September.
    – Mary84
    Jun 12, 2017 at 11:22
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    @Mary84 I wouldn't discount the possibility of it being illegal. If that happened to an adult at a workplace there would be sexual harassment charges and lawsuits for days. The fact that this happened at a school and to a minor makes it even worse. An appropriate course of action would be losing points, detention, suspension, etc. Not public shaming, especially to that degree. Go after them. Think about what your daughter will think about how much you care about her if you let this slide.
    – Becuzz
    Jun 12, 2017 at 11:58
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 12, 2017 at 13:08
  • 2
    If your daughter is breaking school rules and not taking her PE kit then a punishment is appropriate BUT i must say that forcing a 14 year old girl to do PE in her underwear, or just having to do anything publicly in her underwear, is completely unacceptable, borderline abusive and IMO you should complain about this immediately and the teacher should be disciplined. Jun 29, 2017 at 12:29

4 Answers 4


I was that girl once - I was 14 and hated PE. I absolutely HATED it. I was a late-bloomer, and I didn't start puberty until 13, and I was embarrassed about my body. Also my hips changed shape and it took a while to get used to them; I grew really tall and I fell down a lot, and was just generally quite awkward. I had very little athletic endurance. I couldn't run for more than 10 minutes without serious pain, stitches in my side, out of breath. Now I'm a grown woman who hikes every weekend and has walked across the Alps. I hope that sharing how I got from the girl I was then to the athletic woman I am now will help you and your daughter.

My parents helped me with the short-term problem - we talked to the vice principal and found a way for me to meet my gym credit requirements through a correspondence course (I imagine today it could be an online course, but such a thing didn't exist back then). I had to do swimming 3x per week on my own and have the lifeguard sign a record of the time I spent. I did another course the next year for aerobics, again on my own, at home. I loved that it was in private, so no one saw if I happened to make a fool of myself while trying. And as a bonus I was able to spend the time in school doing studio art instead of gym, which I really loved. I knew I only got to do that if I successfully completed my gym requirements outside of school, which was an extra motivating factor.

In the long term, I slowly got used to my body, and built up my endurance. My parents didn't do much to help me with this, the gym correspondence courses did help a bit, but it was mostly just self motivated. I wish my parents had taken me out running/hiking/playing sports more, but they weren't that athletic themselves, and neither were my friends. Exercise gets so much easier and less painful if you do it regularly, it just takes a bit to get over that hump.

  • I was "that girl" too. No endurance, etc. My friend and I staged a "protest" against PE in elementary school. I think the teacher thought it was amusing as we were good students otherwise. My story ends differently though - I still have no stamina and get winded after half a block. Other sports are fun though: dancing, skiing, sailing, tennis and squash, etc. Things with no running or "burst" running and less endurance required. Jun 13, 2017 at 15:55

There are really two separate problems here.

Problem 1: Your daughter doesn't want to do PE.

If this were the only problem, then the solution would be pretty straightforward. She's at an age where it's impractical to physically force her to do things, but she doesn't yet have adult judgment, social skills, or problem-solving skills. Your role would be to discuss the problem with her, understand the nature and origin of the problem, offer her the benefit of your adult judgment, maybe suggest solutions, and make sure she understands the consequences of whatever choices she has.

Problem 2: Your daughter's PE teacher has behaved in a totally unprofessional way by abusing and humiliating your daughter.

No competent, ethical teacher would have taken this approach. I would start by keeping her home from school until you can arrange a meeting with the principal. Express your concerns to the principal calmly but firmly, not offering justifications for your daughter's defiance but making it clear that unprofessional and abusive behavior by her teacher is a serious ethical and legal issue. If the school can't guarantee that the abuse and humiliation will stop, then you probably need a lawyer.


I have read the discussion in the chat room and have to answer this question with the context of that.

Ben Crowell stated there are 2 problems, and I agree. I'd highly suggest your focus be on problem 2 first. From what I've read so far I think that isn't as much of a focus as it should be.

People have tried to point out how terrible what the teacher did was. You don't seem to agree. What I'm hearing is that your daughter already has some intense issue going on about PE. Now this underwear situation happens and that is a major blow to the self-identity and feelings of trust to any teenager.

I was a teacher and I did not like hearing stories of parents barging in and raising a ruckus trying to protect the interest of their kids (normally because they were avoiding teaching their kids to be responsible). However that is exactly what I think you should be doing. Your daughter should see you being upset about what happened to her. She needs to know you care about her personal safety and self-esteem more than anything else (including participating in PE).

I would like to suggest there is a personal trust and or feeling of safety issue here which definitely includes the teacher, and perhaps you too. I'd suggest first trying to understand your daughter, how she feels and accepting what she says.

I'm sorry to include you in the last paragraph. My only intention is to do what a close friend should do and challenge you to step back and really consider your stance and how you choose to proceed. I absolutely do NOT think anything bad about your parenting or how much you love your daughter and want the best for her. I just know I want advice that is honest and I'm offering you what I'd want to hear.


I have not read the chat (new here, no idea where that is) but I think I am understanding this is a teen girl? If so I am so shocked they would have her do class in underwear. I find any age shocking, but a teen even more so.

I hated PE, in large part because I am not good at any of it. I am fit. I didn't need it for fitness, but I hated how awkward I was, I was always the slowest runner, since school started, it was something I truly dreaded. I was mostly able to get out of it eventually simply be refusal, as your daughter has done it seems, that lead to my mother eventually getting a note from the Dr that I was to be excused & instead I did an academic PE. Academic PE meant I constantly had to write research papers on topics pertaining to sports, athletics, hygiene, health, etc & what a relief. At home I was happy to ride a bike, take hikes, play sports with friends & family, but school was an unforgiving place where I clearly wasn't comfortable. I was the one no one wanted on their team, I was miserable. Oddly I could always dance, despite lacking any athletic abilities. I did do dance squad at school. But the point in telling you all of that is that there was nothing the teachers or my parents could have done to change that situation & make me comfortable participating in PE. I have hated it as long as I can recall & becoming a teen just made it 10 times worse. The only thing that helped me was my mom finally realizing I wasn't going to ever be okay with it & doing what she could to allow me a passing grade while trying to respect just how severely I felt about all of it. Ours was 1 hour every day & it literally felt like an hour of humiliation every single day & I just couldn't cope with that. I took so many detentions & every other thing they wanted to dish out because that seemed more desirable than subjecting myself to that. I cannot fathom what I would have felt like had I been made to do so in my underwear. I am so sorry you are all going through this. It has to be upsetting for everyone.

  • My daughter is the same! She's in advanced dance classes (which is almost like pilates for flexibility and strength training), she's fit, she likes running and outdoor activities... and she loathes PE classes. So far she hasn't wanted to drop out because she does have friends she sees in only that class, but the concept of "academic PE" would likely be welcomed. We can always invite those buddies over on the weekend :P
    – Acire
    Jun 14, 2017 at 17:41

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