Fairmont High students sent home for color of shirts

FAIRMONT — Some parents of students at Fairmont High School are seeing red after students were prohibited from wearing white T-shirts and some were sent home on Monday to change.

Principal Kent Prater asked students last week to refrain from wearing the attire.

“Over the past week or so we have experienced some instances of gang recruitment and initiations that have included the wearing of white T-shirts. Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our students and to prevent disruptions of the school day,” Prater said in a letter to parents Monday night that was posted on the school’s website.

Prater wrote that there was “widespread information” that some students planned to wear white T-shirts on Monday.

Superintendent Tommy Lowry, who spoke with Prater on Monday morning, said the request was made because the clothing “became a disruption.”

When students arrived at school on Monday wearing white shirts, they were asked to go home and change or have a parent bring a change of clothes. According to Prater, students who did not have a change of clothes were given Fairmont High School shirts. Prater said “no punitive actions were taken” and all students were allowed to return to school.

According to Prater’s letter, about 35 students were asked to change.

“Some students arrived on campus wearing white T-shirts; some wore acceptable clothing to school and changed clothes after arriving at school; and some removed jackets to reveal their white T-shirts. These students were asked to report to the main office and were given a chance to change,” the letter says.

Prater said the rule would stand “until the issues is resolved” and said only white shirts were prohibited, contrary to earlier reports from parents who said black shirts were also prohibited. A person who answered the phone at Fairmont High School this morning said solid white and black shirts were not allowed.

Parents who spoke with The Robesonian said their children did nothing wrong, and claimed that some students had been suspended because of their attire, which school officials deny.

Steve Ivey’s son was one of the students sent home to change. The junior was wearing a white Relay for Life T-shirt Ivey purchased in May at a fundraiser for cancer research. The student’s mother was killed by breast cancer six years ago, Ivey said.

Immediately after his son came home at about 8:30 a.m. Monday, Ivey went to the school to speak with Prater.

“There were a lot of parents there that were pretty bent out of shape about it,” he said. Ivey said about 30 to 40 students were in the library waiting for a change of clothes.

Ivey spoke with Prater and although he was “satisfied with the answers I had gotten from him,” said the school should have alerted parents about Monday’s dress code.

“To me it was really poor communication,” he said.

Deena Lawson Britt said she received a text message from her son Monday morning saying she needed to pick him up. He had gone to school wearing a white T-shirt with a blue pocket and blue sleeves.

“My son is an honors student,” Britt said, explaining why she was upset over the rule.

Britt says when she arrived at the school, a person in the office said it was “school policy” to not allow black or white shirts. Britt said about 40 students were asked to change. In the meantime, her son missed his first class.

White and black T-shirts are not barred by the school system’s dress code. Some of what the policy prohibits are flip flops, sunglasses, hats, head scarves, excessively tight or transparent clothing, clothing with vulgar messages or images, sagging pants and clothing that reveals the top of the shoulder, midriff, cleavage or undergarments.

The school system’s policy against gang activity prohibits students from “wearing, possessing, using, distributing, displaying or selling any clothing, jewelry, emblems, badges, symbols, signs or other items with the intent to convey membership or affiliation in a gang.”

Prater’s letter says that anyone with concerns can call and speak with an administrator. The school’s number 910-628-6727. The letter, which was sent to parents today, can be found by visiting the school’s website at http://www.robeson.k12.nc.us/fhs and by clicking on “Parent Information.”