School Bans Camouflage Clothing To Defuse Immigration Debate

Colorado middle school principal says safety concerns sparked ban on patriotic symbols.

We've told you about bans on baggy clothes, anti-war T-shirts and Marilyn Manson gear in schools, but American flags?

The boiling immigration debate, which has led to mass demonstrations and walk-outs by high school students across the country (see "The Immigration Debate: Behind The Protests"), has taken a bizarre turn in Colorado, where the administration at Shaw Heights Middle School recently announced a new rule banning the wearing of any patriotic clothing, including camouflage print, because they say clothes have become a political symbol for a version of patriotism that is divisive, according to Denver's KCNC CBS4.

In a letter sent to parents last week, administrators at the Westminster, Colorado, school explained that the move to ban any clothes with political messages or flags of any sort was for the safety of students. The school's principal, Myla Shepherd, said that tensions over the immigration issue were recently apparent when more than 20 students came to school wearing camouflage jackets and pants, apparently to show what they call their patriotism and American pride, according to the CBS4 report.

"It upsets me that we cannot support our troops — the military," said Kirsten Golgart, an eighth grader who was told she'd be suspended if she didn't change her clothes. "We can't support our country. If we're American, I think we should be proud to be an American."

Shepherd said when administrators began hearing name-calling over the immigration debate, they decided on the clothing ban, which immediately helped defuse the tension. "Safety is my first concern, so I'm going to do things to keep us from getting to a point where anybody is hurt or being suspended for fighting," she said.

Golgart's father disagreed with the move and gathered signatures protesting the dress code. "I don't think that's a solution, though, because you're punishing 400 students because the action of 100," said Eric Golgart. But Shepherd argued that freedom of speech can be limited in schools for safety's sake. And she's not the only one taking such action in the state. The principal at Skyline High School in Longmont, Colorado, recently banned all flags, including the American flag, because of similar tensions related to the immigration debate.