J. Sam Gentry Middle School in Mt. Airy, North Carolina was the recent site of a violation of freedom of speech, but also a quick restoration of that violation. On Wednesday, a student was told by a teacher to turn the t-shirt they were wearing inside out. Why? Because it had a Bible Scripture reference.
A young girl, who has not been identified, was told to turn her t-shirt inside out for a Scripture reference which was emblazoned on the front. According to one parent, whose daughter is friends with the girl, it was a physical education teacher, whose decision was backed up by the assistant principal. So far, I have been unable to confirm the teacher involved or whether an assistant principal was involved in the matter.
Principal Paige Badgett spoke to Freedom Outpost about the incident.
"That has been rectified," said Badgett, referring to the incident that took place on Wednesday. "It was wrong, and you, as well as I know students have a freedom of speech and can wear t-shirts."
Principal Badgett also said that she spoke to student, the parents, and the teacher and made it a "learning opportunity" for the adults involved.
Badgett then directed us to Director of Communications, Instructional Media and Teacher Quality Sonia Dickerson.
Ms. Dickerson was not available for comment at the time of our call. However, our call to Dickerson was returned by Charles Graham.
Graham indicated that the school does have a dress code that does prohibit certain things on t-shirts, such as illegal drugs or alcohol, things that could be perceived as discriminatory or things that could cause a disruption, but it does not prohibit religious expression that would be in the form of t-shirts or jewelry.
"This was a misapplication of the policy by that faculty member that has been addressed," said Graham. "The parents have been contacted and apologized to… and the student as well this morning."
Graham also indicated that the principal has met with the grade level that was affected and "explained to them that this was not a violation of the dress code. Those t-shirts with those types of messages are certainly allowable and acceptable."
We asked Mr. Graham if he could elaborate on how or why the teacher would have misapplied the dress code in this incident. He said he could not, nor was he willing to speculate on what the teacher's thinking was.
"We believe we have addressed the issue, and corrected the error," Graham told us.
The Surry County Board of Education says they believe that the dress and personal appearance of students greatly affects their academic performance and their interaction with other students.
The Student Dress Code for Surry County Schools prohibits only the following appearance or clothing:
- violates a reasonable dress code adopted and publicized by the school,
- is substantially disruptive,
- is provocative or obscene, or
- endangers the health or safety of the student or others.
The board has requested that parents outfit their children in clothing that will be conducive to learning. In general, dress and grooming standards, as determined by the student and their parents, is deemed acceptable by the school system.
On Thursday, according to one mother, students were encouraged to wear t-shirts that demonstrated Christian beliefs. Here's a meme that was posted:
I'm glad that the school handled the situation quickly and clarified the dress code to the teacher involved, and I'm glad parents are keeping an eye out concerning this matter, but I would encourage them to remove their children from the government religious indoctrination centers that we call public schools and educate their own children. This way, they know exactly what is being taught up to the minute and would be following the guidelines of our Creator.
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