A Pinellas County family who say their son was sent home for wearing makeup has launched a nationwide petition calling on the district to change their policies and better training on diversity.
Chris Martin, a student at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg was told his T-shirt violated school policy. But the family reports that the school principal, Claud Effiom, crossed the line when he told 14-year-old Chris Martin that his makeup was ridiculous, unnecessary, and distracting.
“The principal refused to allow him to proudly enjoy the last school-day of the year" said Katelynn Martin, the student's mother.
Equality Florida has reached out to the school board and our legal allies to respond to the Martin's complaint. Yesterday, the ACLU sent a letter to the school district warning that sending a male student home for wearing makeup violated sex discrimination laws.
"The Code of Student Conduct for Pinellas County Schools does not prohibit students from wearing makeup – in fact, it does not discuss makeup at all. Although the district’s dress-code policy notes that “[i]ndividual schools may have additional dress and grooming requirements,” there is no indication on the website for Meadowlawn Middle School that makeup is prohibited at that school. Moreover, as we understand it, many female students at Meadowlawn Middle School regularly wear makeup at the school, so the school does not even have an unwritten, de facto policy against makeup generally."
"Applying a different rule to Chris because he is male constitutes sex discrimination in violation of the United States Constitution, the Florida Constitution, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of1972. Principal Effiom apparently has certain beliefs regarding how boys and girls should present themselves, but school officials may not discriminate based on gender stereotypes."
The ACLU letter was addressed to Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego. Grego told the media that the whole incident has been grossly misrepresented. "There's a whole lot more to the story then what was reported," he said. "It wasn't about just makeup, it wasn't about that at all," Grego said. (see story in the Tampa Tribune)
The school district's response has left the family unsatisfied and officials have not publicly elaborated further.
Katelynn Martin has also started a petition on MoveOn.org that has received almost 10,000 signatures so far. She wrote:
"My son has endured vicious bullying for the last several years, and unfortunately, he is not the only one. These attacks are terribly damaging to young people, who are already struggling to find their identity. Incidents like the one yesterday only serve to further isolate these kids, who feel abandoned by the educators that are charged with their safety and well-being.
It is unacceptable that these things should be allowed to occur anywhere, but most especially in a community as diverse and accepting as Pinellas County."
The family also set up a facebook page to provide updates: