DRESS code concerns at a Tulsa High School

Wednesday, September 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Three Memorial High School students feel they were unfairly disciplined for wearing red and black to school last week. The school says it applies the dress code fairly and consistently.

The News on Six's Lori Fullbright reports that when the school says when it sees a group of kids starting to wear the same color, a color that's often associated with gangs, it puts a stop to it. The problem the parents have is, if colors are forbidden at school, they should be forbidden for everyone, not just a select few. These boys are wearing similar clothes to what they had on last Wednesday when school leaders told them to change.

The school says a fight between two freshmen boys on Monday prompted the clamp down on wearing colors associated with gangs. They say they warned 15-20 students, both black and white, not to wear the red and black, but a few still did the next day. John McGinnis, Memorial Principal: "The dress code, the code of conduct, we take that very seriously. We want our kids to get an education." The school says it gave the boys the choice of wearing a t-shirt provided by the school or calling their parents for a change of clothes. They say the boys opted to leave the campus without permission, so they were suspended for three days.

The boys say they were told change or leave school. Their parents say the whole thing was handled poorly. Elena Zapata, Mother: "Why were we not notified as parents about the color ban and it should be school wide, not just certain kids." The school handbook does say kids can't wear gangster-style clothing to school but it does not cover specific colors. Gangs officers tell us, red and black are popular among the Bloods gang, orange and navy is associated with Hoover Crips, light blue and navy are claimed by the Neighborhood Crips, Green is associated with a white gang called the Irish and brown is sometimes worn by Hispanic gangs. Laila Fritz's son didn't get into trouble, but, but, she happened to be at school Wednesday and says the school told black boys they couldn't wear red, but, ignored dozens of white students wearing the same colors. Laila Fritz, Witness: "I just feel like address it with everybody, don’t' target certain individuals. Who’s' the one who decides what's gang? Who makes that call? I just want it to be fair." Carlene Ricks, Mother: "We counted out 65 in the same colors in front of the office and we asked why weren't they being addressed, and they said, there was too many of them.”

The school principal says the reason he didn't notify parents in writing or address the banned colors over the intercom was because they were trying to handle it in a low-key manner, only with those students they felt posed a problem. Parents say they can't help enforce a dress code if they don't know about it and it must apply to all or none. They suggested uniforms as an alternative.