Detroit Free Press
9/11 T-shirts no exception
Students are sent home for violating school dress code
BY GINA DAMRON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
September 13, 2006
Ben Lewandowski says he was only trying to be patriotic when he wore a homemade T-shirt featuring an American flag bumper sticker and the words "Remember 9/11" to Lincoln Park High School on Monday.
After all, it was Sept. 11 -- five years after the terrorist attacks.
The 17-year-old Lincoln Park resident put the shirt on Monday morning and headed to school -- where he was quickly sent to the office and suspended for three days for violating the school's dress code.
He was one of at least seven students sent home for wearing shirts featuring patriotic images and messages. It comes less than a week after three siblings were suspended for wearing shirts emblazoned with the First Amendment, despite warnings, and a week after more than 200 students were sent home on the first day of school for violating the district's dress code -- which bans apparel with writing or pictures.
For Lewandowski, who was sent home on the first day of school for wearing a shirt with writing on it, Monday's incident was his second offense.
"I was frustrated," said the junior, whose desire to become a firefighter was fueled after the Sept. 11 attacks. "It just made me so mad that I can't be patriotic."
Lincoln Park Schools Superintendent Randall Kite said the high school held a moment of silence Monday to give students an outlet to show their patriotism. He said some students had asked last week whether they could wear shirts to commemorate the day, and they were told no.
"We didn't think it would be appropriate, because of the dress code, to wear T-shirts with writing," he said Tuesday.
According to the dress code, students are allowed to wear school-sanctioned clothing, such as T-shirts bearing the school's mascot or clothing that supports school organizations.
This, according to the ACLU of Michigan, may violate the students' rights, particularly because it allows students to wear clothing that encourages school spirit but bans other forms of expression. ACLU officials have said that they plan to look into the constitutionality of the dress code.
Kite said the district had lawyers review the policy before it was enacted. Members of the district's school board have said the dress code is lenient compared with other districts such as Detroit and Pontiac, which have banned jeans and T-shirts completely.
Southfield's school district implemented a dress code last year similar to those enacted in Detroit and Pontiac this year. Southfield Schools Deputy Superintendent Ken Siver said Tuesday that the district didn't have any problems Monday with students violating the policy to wear patriotic garb.
Still, some Lincoln Park parents say they feel the district has gone too far.
Kaye Belcuore's granddaughter, 14-year-old Karly Belcuore, was sent home Monday from Lincoln Park High for wearing a T-shirt with patriotic messages on it.
"I think it's a little ridiculous under the circumstances," Kaye Belcuore said.
Kelly Galley agrees. Her three children -- 13-year-old twins Monique and Jaicen Massa and 11-year-old Jaymie Massa -- were suspended last week for protesting the dress code by wearing T-shirts with the First Amendment on them. Jaymie had stayed home from Lincoln Park Middle School on Tuesday, but Monique and Jaicen wore the shirts again -- their third offense -- and were suspended again, this time for five days. One more offense and they'll be expelled.
Galley said it's likely she'll end up homeschooling.
Contact GINA DAMRON at 248-351-3293 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.