Parent upset over school banning shirt brand

COVINGTON - A parent of an Indian Creek Middle School student hopes to help make a change in the dress code for the entire school system this year.

Nikki Howell, who has had children at ICMS for the past six years, saw a need for a modification in dress code policies after school Principal Renee Mallard made an announcement regarding a brand of clothing.

During announcements one day at the beginning of the school year, Howell said the principal told students not to wear shirts by Dixie Outfitters, which generally are T-shirts that portray a Confederate flag on them.

"The T-shirts have not been allowed at Indian Creek in the past and other schools have similar rules in place. Dr. Mallard chose to continue this practice," said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations at the Newton County School System. "She made an announcement at the end of one school day after learning that some students had worn Dixie Outfitter shirts with large Confederate flags entirely across the back, not just the small logo shirts."

Although Howell said some parents have a problem with their students not being allowed to wear what they want to wear and other issues with the new rule, she doesn't have a problem with the guideline itself - she just wants more of an equal policy for all schools to be put in writing.

"I believe it should be across the board ... including all racial and political connotations and religions and anything else that is offensive, vulgar or obscene," she said. "I believe this dress code adjustment is in and of itself discriminatory. ... You can't single out one ethnic group or brand of clothing."

She also said she wants to see the rule in writing, rather than simply made part of afternoon announcements, and for it to be a part of every school's dress code.

"It's just about fairness," Howell said.

Viniard said dress code requirements such as this one are at the discretion of the school administrator.

"It falls under the statement on page 19 of the system secondary handbook, 'It is the purpose of the schools to provide a positive school climate ... without distractions and disruptions that interfere with or undermine the learning process,'" Viniard said.

Howell said she has called NCSS officials, who have yet to respond to her request, and she plans to speak during the public comments portion during one of the next set of the Newton County Board of Education meetings, which are scheduled for Sept. 8 and 15.

In December, Mallard suspended a student at ICMS for wearing a Barack Obama T-shirt to school following the November election even though the school sent out an announcement the night before telling students not to wear any political clothing or accessories for the rest of the week due to safety concerns.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.