Summer, a senior at North Carolina’s Hickory Ridge High School, carries a 4.4 GPA, is headed for a pre-med program in college, and was nearly arrested for showing too much of her shoulders.
On Wednesday, the school’s principal took exception to Summer’s green shirt that sits slightly off her shoulders. When confronted, Summer told the principal, “I think my shirt is fine,” repeatedly.
Finally, a friend loaned Summer a jacket to cover up, but that was still not good enough for the principal, who demanded that Summer go change shirts completely. WCNC reports that Summer did not agree with the principal’s demands.
“I completely understand why a dress code is put into place but I feel like I put on that jacket, it should have been subdued.”
Summer told WCNC that she had numerous issues with the principal over her four years at Hickory Ridge, leading to an agreement with the principal that Summer’s mother be called before any disciplinary action is taken.
So, when the principal insisted that Summer go change in the school’s control room to change, Summer demanded that her mother be called:
“They can’t take me anywhere unless my mother is called. So I said ‘I apologize, I can’t go anywhere with you unless my mom is called.”
When Summer’s mother could not be reached, things got heated. When the school period was over, Summer went to the auditorium with her friends. The principal and the school’s resource officer followed and ordered everyone but Summer to leave the auditorium.
The officer “was within five feet of me, he had his hand on his gun.” According to Summer, that’s when the principal escalated the situation:
‘I’m gonna give you an ultimatum. We have tried to call your mother. You either come with me to the control room to change your shirt or we will arrest you.”
However, Summer stayed seated, instead continuing to attempt to reach her mother. That’s when the principal decided that arrest was the appropriate way to handle the situation. Fortunately for Summer, her mother called in time to defuse the situation, just as the officer was getting ready to handcuff the teen.
Summer said of the situation:
“I stayed in my seat just like a lot of role models that I have looked up to stayed in their seats. I mean, you have to stand up for what you believe in.”
Summer was given a 10-day suspension for “insubordination” and is not allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. The principal is even reportedly considering expelling Summer.
Those steps put Summer’s future in jeopardy. She should be graduating with a 4.4 GPA and has received a scholarship from a major university, instead she may not complete her senior year. Summer put her punishment in perspective:
“It’s just sad because I worked so hard for four years to walk across that stage. We have drug dealers walking across that stage, we have sex offenders walking across that stage and then the 4.4 student who showed her shoulders can’t.”
Summer’s mother is appealing the decision. Summer says she has a lot riding on the appeal:
“This is my life, I’m on a pre-med track. A full ride means so much and that is on the line right now.”
The school declined to comment to WCNC, instead providing a copy of the lengthy dress code, which does ban off-the-shoulder shirts, but fails to mention that arrest is a possible punishment.
Aside from the issues with sexism and inequality rampant in dress codes, the fact that being a strong-willed, independent-thinking young woman would get a girl suspended and possibly arrested is all the evidence we need that our nation’s schools are often more concerned with providing their own brand of discipline instead of fostering the future of an obviously bright young girl.
It is painfully obvious that to the Hickory Ridge principal, ensuring that a student complies with instructions and that no one sees too much of her shoulders is far more important than her 4.4 GPA or medical school aspirations. Losing a scholarship and being arrested far outweighs nurturing qualities we should foster in our youth.
As for the officer, he is simply indicative of the systemic plague of law enforcement overstepping legality and morality in a show of force. Being willing to arrest a student over a shirt and her subsequent strong-willed protest is shameful. Then again, we see how law enforcement chooses to execute their own brand of justice on a near daily basis.