Principal forbids 5th grader to wear Obama shirt to school
Posted: Jan 22, 2009 07:23 PM
Updated: Jan 22, 2009 11:40 PM
"He's our first black President of the United States," says fifth-grader Elijah Smith. "It makes me real proud."
Smith was excited to wear his Barack Obama shirt to school Tuesday, but then had second thoughts.
"That morning he stated that he may not be able to wear the shirt," says Elijah's mother Veneica Byrd.
"That's the principal's rules," says Elijah.
Elijah's mother says she immediately called Principal Liz Compton at Sumter's High Hills Elementary School.
"I did speak with Mrs. Compton, and she did state that it would not be a good idea for Elijah to wear the shirt," says Byrd. "I proceeded to ask her why, and she said that she didn't want to cause any conflict. What she really meant by that in details I'm not sure, but she was very vague with her answer."
Out of respect, Elijah did not wear the shirt.
Later that day, Venetia called Sumter's Two School District Superintendent Frank Baker.
"What Mr. Baker stated to me was that he would not have a problem with Elijah wearing the Obama sweatshirt after Mr. Obama was sworn in," says Byrd. "I felt offended."
We requested an interview with Superintendent Baker on Tuesday. We left messages for him on Wednesday, and again on Thursday. He has not responded.
Veneica says both Baker and Principal Compton referred her to the school district's dress code.
The dress code listed on the school district's website says students may not wear clothes with offensive languages or images. It also says staff members have the authority to deem any attire unsuitable or disruptive to the educational or cultural climate of the school.
"What type of message are you sending to our children?" asks Byrd.
Venica says Elijah has worn several wrestling shirts to school this year and never had a problem.
"You have some of the children that wear the shirts with the skulls with the blood coming out," says Byrd. "So if you're saying they're able to wear these types of shirts in our public schools, what are you saying about our president, if he's not able to wear that shirt?"
Reported by Jordan Sandler