I could not make this story up if I tried. And I have a vivid imagination, my friends. A kindergartner in Oklahoma was just settling into his new school, which I know is a pretty exciting time for any child. There’s lots of new friends, but also plenty of anxiety. Suddenly, his teacher tells him that his tee-shirt is inappropriate and will have to be worn inside out for the day.
What was so horrible about this little boy’s clothing choice? It didn’t swear, promote alcohol or tobacco or display an offensive image. (I’m pretty sure those were the guidelines when I was in school.) No, this little boy offended the eyes of his classmates by daring to wear a University of Michigan tee-shirt.
According to the dress code in the five-year-old’s school, students are only allowed to wear clothing that supports Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. The policy was apparently implemented to crack down on students showing gang affiliation. Obviously there was a real concern that this kindergartner was promoting gang violence.
Now honestly, we can all agree that the dress code is silly. Banning every other state’s athletic memorabilia is just ludicrous. It doesn’t help anyone. But my problem is not with a silly dress code. My problem is that the thing was enforced in the first weeks of school on a poor kindergartner who had no idea what was going on.
I know no one is shocked to learn that I was not a very shy child, but everyone remembers the stress of the first days of school. You’re trying desperately not to cause any waves. You’re terrified of even raising your hand because you don’t want to be wrong about anything. Getting in trouble, and everyone seeing your shirt inside-out because of that trouble, had to be enormously embarrassing for that little kid. Congratulations Oklahoma schools for making a five-year-old feel awful about school from the very beginning.
This whole story is just a lesson in over-reaction. If the teacher was really worried about the shirt, send a note home to the parent explaining the rule and asking that they not wear the shirt again. Really, a day of Michigan support was not going to hurt anyone in that school. Instead, a silly rule has become a big news story for us all to shake our heads at.
A five-year-old humiliated because his parents like an out-of-state football team? The only appropriate response to this story is, “Seriously?”
Apparently this little boy’s school is considering changing their dress code. That’s all fine and dandy. But maybe we should also instruct the teachers on the difference between a real threat and minor misunderstanding. A lesson in tact might be appropriate as well.