Millions of kids have gotten their ears pierced at Claire’s stores in malls across North America – 100-million ears have been pierced there over the last four decades, in fact. But the childhood rite of passage at the retail chain has people talking this week after a former Claire’s employee revealed she quit her job over the store’s ear-piercing policy.

Raylene Marks, a 32-year-old Canadian woman, shared her story in a widely shared Facebook post and it has people talking about kids and consent. In her “Open Letter to Claire’s Corporate,” Marks details a situation where she refused to pierce the ears of a seven-year-old girl who she says “made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced.” The girl was crying, loudly telling staff she didn’t want them touching her, that they were standing too close to her, and that she was feeling uncomfortable, so Marks said she wouldn’t go ahead with the ear piercing.

The girl and her mom eventually left, but Marks followed-up with her manager to see how she would have been expected to handle the situation if the mom still wanted her unwilling daughter’s ears pierced. She was told that she “would have no choice but to do it” if the mother insisted. Marks says she asked, “So if a mother is physically restraining her daughter, holding her down and saying, ‘DO IT,’ while that little girl cries and asks me not to, do I do the piercing?” And her boss said yes!

Marks says she quit the same day because she “cannot be part of a company that teaches a child that their right to say “NO” to invasive non-medical contact can be so easily overridden by an adult.” Her post asked Claire’s to change their policies to give better guidance and they listened. The company reached out to Marks and thanked her for bringing the wording of the policy to their attention and says they’ll revise it. Now we’ll see what they do about it.

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