Controversy arises over wearing white t-shirts in Robeson County school

Controversy arises over wearing white t-shirts in Robeson County school

FAIRMONT, NC (WMBF) - When you send your kids to school you want to know they are safe, which is why the principal at a Robeson County High School chose to enforce a rule about the color shirt kids can wear.

At Fairmont High School, students were told Friday, they could not wear a white t-shirt to school. When Monday rolled around, about 35 students showed up wearing one, and had to change.

According to the school's principal, Kent Prater, it all comes down to keeping the halls of the high school safe.

Prior to his announcement that students would not be allowed in wearing a white t-shirt, Prater said he got a tip from students which connected wearing a white t-shirt to gang recruitment.

"We know that there was contact by someone from off campus trying to recruit students for gang activity, so this was just a safety procedure by the school administration to off-set any disruption on campus,"  Robeson County School Districts Public Relations Officer Tasha Oxendine said.

The school was able to handle any gang related situation from entering the school, according to Oxendine, and enforcing a dress code was a precautionary measure.

Parents said they respect the safety first mindset, but Christan Shockley, whose son was wearing a white, "Salt Life," t-shirt, said he was sent home, which was a disruption to learning.

Oxendine said, no student was asked to leave school, they were instead offered a change of clothes. She said, students who did not want the shirts were asked to call their parents for a change of clothes.

"If they had been sent home they would have had some suspension paperwork or charge paperwork where they would have had to meet with the principal but that was not the case," Oxendine said.

Parents said, it comes down to miscommunication, and parents should have been notified Friday, with the students.

"Look at this and use it as how they need to handle the student body and parents moving forward," Shockley said. "Send some guidelines, so you don't enforce a rule with sending children home without talking to the parents first."

In a statement to WMBF News, another parent said, referring to the principal: "I understand why he said he done this but from what I saw it was taken too far. A letter should have came home on Friday or a call made. 60 kids in the hall and missing class is not the right way to do this. I buy what my son wears to school and I make sure it is nothing against school policy. But has shirts that are white and has different things on them. And I feel like my son should be able to wear them. Are we going to stop them from wearing red that is a gang color or black also a gang color? And No, no one has said that I am asking a question? Well our school colors also are related to gangs. This is my view that is how I feel."

So, moving forward, the question is, how will events like this be handled in the future?

Shockley recommended enforcing students to wear uniforms.

"We don't anticipate any other problems because we think you know the persons who were involved in this, it has been resolved," Oxendine said. "But if any other problems do arise, a letter will be sent home to parents."

As far as if and when kids can come back to school with white t-shirts on, that is to be determined at a later time, Oxendine said

Click the following link to read the letter sent to parents of Fairmont High School students in PDF format (170KB)

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