Western Albemarle student sent home for wearing hat with Confederate symbol | Education

Spokesman Phil Giaramita said the Western Albemarle High School student was asked to remove the hat and refused. The student’s father then was called to the school; he supported his son’s decision and signed him out of school.

Giaramita said that was the only incident related to the dress code change on Tuesday.

Superintendent Matt Haas announced a reinterpretation of the dress code Feb. 28 that would specifically prohibit students from wearing any symbols, lettering or insignia of organizations or groups associated with white supremacy, racial hatred or violence.

Haas said he has the latitude to interpret policy and is supported by guidance from the division’s attorney, Ross Holden.

He announced Monday in an email to parents that the ban would go into effect Tuesday.

According to the division’s current dress code, clothing that interferes with or disrupts the educational environment is unacceptable. Additionally, clothing with language or images that are vulgar, discriminatory or obscene, that promote illegal or violent conduct or that contain threats are all prohibited. Hats are not specifically banned.

“The evidence is clear and it is compelling — clothing associated with hate groups has the potential to disrupt our learning environments by bringing symbols that represent fear and intimidation of others into our classrooms,” he wrote. “Places, in fact, where students are required to be in close proximity to those who would wear such clothing.”

Future violations will be handled similarly to Tuesday’s incident, Giaramita said. Students will be asked to remove any clothing violating the dress code. If the student does not do so, parents will be called.

If students continue to refuse or wear similar images each day, it would become an issue of defiance, Haas has said in interviews and at board meetings. Defiance is listed in the student code of conduct as an act that would be grounds for corrective action, including suspension or expulsion.

Haas told board members last month that the goal is not to suspend students. He echoed that message in his email to parents.

“I want our focus to be on counseling students,” he wrote in the email. “I know from personal experience that talking with students who wear such clothing invariably results in their voluntary decision to no longer do so; most often, they are unaware of its impact on others.”

Haas has cited the deadly Unite the Right rally and the region’s history of slavery and resistance to integration in his Feb. 28 presentation as reasons for the ban, as well as examples of racism in local schools.

In a 2016 high school climate survey, 35 percent of Albemarle High School students said that students are teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity, along with 26 percent of Monticello High School students and 18 percent of Western Albemarle students.

Katherine Knott is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7263, kknott@dailyprogress.com, or @knott_katherine on Twitter.

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