"To Whom It May Concern:
My son attends Furman Middle School in Sumter SC. I would like to start by telling you about my son. He is an 8th grader by the name of Christian Compton. He is very involved I school and his education. He has been a straight A student and in the TAG program since elementary school. He is involved in Student Government and is currently running for class president. He is also the editor of the school newspaper and will be undergoing IQ testing at Francis Marion University in January based on his previous test scores and teachers recommendations. He has never been in any type of trouble or been subject to any type of discipline while attending school. He was also holding a steady perfect attendance until today.
Furman Middle School, as many know, has a uniform dress code policy that requires khaki pants, navy blue or white polo’s, brown or black belt, and white, black, or brown shoes. My wife and I have been supportive of this uniform policy due to the studies that prove a reduction in bullying and distractions from the educational process. I do however have a serious issue on how the uniform policy is being implemented and enforced. We purchased shoes, which to our understanding, met both the uniform policy and the requirements for gym class. These specific shoes are black Nike’s with a gray Nike “swoosh” trademark symbol on the side of the shoe. These shoes have been sufficient and past daily uniform inspections for the entire school year last year and thus far this year. As a matter of fact, they passed a uniform inspection first thing this morning. Later in Christian’s third period class, following an email to all teachers, he was sent to the office and told he would have to wear black bags on his feet for the remainder of the day. He immediately called us and we went straight to the school. When we arrived at the school we met with the assistant principle and he confirmed that unless we were able to provide our son with shoes that met the policies requirements he would not be able to attend class unless he wore bags on his feet. We also learned that a child that forgets their belt or wear a belt that is deemed non-compliant is forced to wear a brown string tied around their waist for the remainder of the day to attend class. I explained that solid black or white shoes that meet those requirements aren’t exactly easy to find in stores, our family is on a very fixed budget, and to be able to purchase these shoes and find them in his size in a store would be difficult on such short notice. I asked that if it took several weeks to find and afford such shoes would my son not be permitted to attend classes. The assistant principle advised me that he could only attend class with bags on his feet until the proper shoes were provided for him.
My issues are these:
- The shoes have been adequate for two school years until today.
- I can’t understand how a grey stripe on his shoe is more distracting to the educational process than bags on his feet.
- By definition, humiliation and demoralization by being forced to wear bags on their feet or a string tied around their waist is bullying, not by other students but by the school administration. A simple note sent home, phone call, or parent conference would be sufficient I’m sure.
- The school’s administration is creating their own obstacles in providing an education to our children by putting them in a position to be ridiculed and bullied, demoralizing, and humiliating them.
- How can I, as a parent, support a uniform policy that is handled in a manner that humiliates children because their parents can’t afford to buy them a new pair of shoes on a few hours’ notice?
- Other parents have now come forward with similar issues that include: colors on the soles of the shoes, a colored stripe on the inside of the polo shirt’s collar, too many buttons on the polo shirt, etc…. These uniform demands are unrealistic and absurd. I challenge any of you to visit the stores in Sumter and find affordable clothing that does not have some type of markings, logos, or trademark colors on them.
I could literally go on for hours with the reason’s I feel this is wrong. I have attempted to contact the local school board and district office where I received the run around, transfers to other people who have run me around, and numerous voicemails that have gone unanswered. The uniform policy has another reason for its existence: To prepare students for the “real world”. Well, in the real world we stand up for our rights and for what we believe in. I will be teaching my son that lesson from this!
I have already made initial contacts with local and state news media. My son has been denied a public education because he refuses to have his rights violated and becoming a subject of humiliation in front of his classmates. It is unfair and demoralizing for any middle school student to suffer such consequences. If a reduction from distraction in the public education system is the goal of the policy, how is creating a larger distraction with humiliation a sensible solution? If any child were to come from school and tell their parents that another child had humiliated them by forcing them to wear bags on their feet or a string around their waist that child would be considered a bully and probably be disciplined by any good school administrator. The way this policy is being handled, the lack of consistent enforcement, and the constant different interpretations of the policy by those that enforce it alone show that it was not well thought out and implemented properly.
It is my full intention to ensure my children get the quality education that is rightfully theirs. With that being said, we will also fight to protect them from a school system that demoralizes them by whatever means necessary.
As a parent I’m pretty outraged. If you’re outraged, and you would like to contact the school board on James’ behalf, here’s their info:
Sumter South Carolina School District
1345 Wilson Hall Rd
Sumter, SC 29150
Furman Middle School
3400 Bethel Church Rd
Sumter, SC 29154
Principal: Maria Newton-Ta-Bon
I understand the occasional need for school uniforms. They have been proven to be beneficial in some cases, no matter how hard the little anarchist in my soul screams otherwise. However, when the dress code is so stringent that it impacts the child’s education, then the system is not working, and it must change.
Parents are expected to co-operate with their school in order to create a good and stable environment in which their children can grow, and grow safely. However, these demands must be decent and rational. If what a board asks of a parent is too taxing, then there needs to be a discussion. You either change the structure of the code, or you create a resource to help the parent in need.
If you’re a member of a school board, and any action in your chair is for any other reason than for the benefit of the children under your care, you must step down and go elsewhere.
However, that’s just me, and this story is about someone else.