January 9, 2006
A fashion statement at Charlottesville High School had some students sent home for the day. The item of discussion: a T-shirt. School officials think it may be gang related, and view the shirts as a threat to student safety. Meanwhile, one parent defends them and sees it as art work.
"I always look for the good in the kids because you have so many people that say negative things to them, so I said ok, now I know with him, he's an artist and we can have him do artwork," said Deedee Gilmore, parent of one student sent home from school .
There were several things on the T-shirt--from the word "gangster" to the name of the neighborhood, but Gilmore insists they all have a meaning.
"'I'm a G' I found out from the kids, that's a song, the 900 block is our address and Gangster Gill is my son's rap name," said Gilmore.
To the school they were more than just words
"We were given a list of groups or gangs if you want to call them that, by the police department and the T-shirt that was being displayed had one of these insignias on it," said Charlottesville High School Principal Kenneth Leatherwood.
This was following conflicts between kids from different parts of town that used their neighborhoods to show allegiance.
"Are we saying that these kids are members? No, but what we are trying to do, again, is to be proactive and make sure we don't have trouble at school and make sure the environment is safe and orderly at school," explained Leatherwood.
Some parents still view it as stereotyping their neighborhoods.
"900 Block, why can't we be proud of where we live at?" Gilmore said.
All parents are issued a student handbook with a dress code which speaks in general terms of not allowing badges, symbols, and signs that could insight gang activity.
Students are also sent home for other dress code violations, such as clothing with alcohol or drug symbols on them.