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A Texas high school student is circulating a petition protesting his in-school suspension for violating part of the school’s dress code forbidding male students from wearing nail polish.
Trevor Wilkinson, 17, an out gay student at Clyde High School, in Clyde, Texas, says he was suspended for having painted fingernails. He says the principal and vice principal gave him three options: go to school virtually until January, along with other students returning from Christmas break; remove the nail polish and be allowed to return to class; or accept an in-house suspension for as long as he continues to paint his nails. He chose the third option.
“I have been doing this to express who I am,” he told the Abilene Reporter-News. “I’ve been trapped in closed-minded people’s minds…. I love my nails. I think they’re so cool. I’m definitely using it to express myself and feel everyone should have that freedom of expression.”
According to the school’s student handbook, the dress code prohibits males from wearing makeup or nail polish, noting that the penalty for violating the dress code is an in-school suspension “until the problem is corrected, or until a parent or designee brings an acceptable change of clothing to the school.”
“Repeated offenses may result in more serious disciplinary action in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct,” the handbook notes.
After he began serving his suspension, Wilkinson started a petition on Change.org demanding that the Clyde Independent School District change its dress code and allow mails to wear nail polish. Already, the petition has garnered more than 73,000 signatures.
“It’s a complete double standard because girls are allowed to paint and get their nails done. Not only that, but freedom of expression is validation enough that the dress code and policy is not okay,” Wilkinson wrote on the petition.
“I am a gay male and I’m beyond proud. This is unjust and not okay. Help me show that it is okay to express yourself and that the identity that society wants to normalize is not okay. I am a human. I am valid. I should not get in trouble for having my nails done. Sign and share this so people like me don’t have to ever deal with this again. It’s time for a change and that time is now.”
CISD Superintendent Kenny Berry refused to comment on the specifics of Wilkinson’s case, issuing a prepared statement.
“The District conducts a diligent and thoughtful review of the dress code on an annual basis. That review process results in the development of a final dress code that is consistently implemented and enforced during the next school year,” Berry said. “Parents and students are provided a copy of the dress code prior to the start of each new school year. Questions or concerns with the dress code are reviewed individually, and the District cannot share any information regarding a specific student.
“The District appreciates the feedback and input on this issue received from members of the community, and will take this into consideration when it conducts its annual review later this school year,” Berry added.
The Abilene Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ organization serving much of Texas’s “Big Country” region, is defending Wilkinson and wrote a letter to the school district accusing it of engaging in sex discrimination against Wilkinson and any other males who wear nail polish.
“It is our hope that we can work with CISD to immediately rectify this situation the studet is currently in and ensure that going forward, the school district follows [Texas Association of School Boards] recommendations to dissolve policies that treat students differently based on sex expression,” the letter reads. “We are asking for this discriminatory policy to immediately be addressed at your next school board meeting and that the child in question be released from suspension with an official apology from the school district.”
The organization also raised the possibility of legal action, writing that “if CISD chooses not to work toward our shared values of equality and grace, we will have no option but to defend this student and any LGBTQIA students that happen to find themselves being discriminated against.”
“The current school board and the current administration, they’re not responsible for those policies that came about, probably before they were even born,” Sam Hatton, the chair of the Abilene Pride Alliance, told local news outlet BigCountryHomepage.com, which partners with CBS and NBC affiliates KTAB and KRBC. “What they are responsible for is their implementation, or whether or not they enforce them. They’re also responsible for whether or not they continue.”
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