Students at a Jacksonville, Fla., high school say they’ve been banned from wearing “memorial attire”, clothes or jewelry honoring a deceased love one. Officials believe the commemorations are tied to “gang activity.”
“It said we can’t wear them. Basically, no necklaces, none of that,” Lee High School senior Jarod Mills told the station about the announcement. “They don’t feel it’s appropriate for the school.”
The school’s announcement comes on the heels of an incident at a county fair in which a black teen was kicked out for wearing a necklace with the image of his deceased mother.
Yahoo News reports, four police officers escorted the teen and his friend out of the Jacksonville Fair on Nov. 3 after he refused to tuck in a necklace memorializing his mother. A spokeswoman claimed the dress policy was made at the behest of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office because “it’s associated with bad behavior.”
From Yahoo News:
Though the teen’s identity is not being revealed, [his mentor Amy Donofrio] confirmed that he is definitely not affiliated with gang activity. In fact, she says, he’s a member of the Evac Movement, a community Donofrio founded to bring together at-risk youth (she calls them “at-hope”) with the intention of “channeling painful personal tragedies into positive change.” And as such, the teens are empowered as youth leaders — a group even met with President Barack Obama during his tenure — and often participate in roundtable discussions with police. The teen in question, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “has a working relationship with the head of the gang unit” at JSO…
One of the officers then approached the boys and asked one to pull up his pants, she says. He then turned to the teen in question and ordered him to tuck in the memorial necklace, which bears a photo of his mother. “He said, ‘Sir, I’m not going to tuck it in. It’s my mother and I have a legal right to wear it,” Donofrio says. She claims the ban on memorial gear was not part of any dress code policy she or the boys were aware of at the time, and that the policy that was later brought to her attention states those who wear memorial jewelry will be denied entry.
The district reminded that punishment for violating dress code is not suspension and that the school always does what they can to help students stay in compliance, News 4 reports.