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Open Letter To Cabarrus County Schools

Here is the story I’m responding to.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you concerning the suspension of Summer from Hickory Ridge High School. As an honors student, with a 4.4 GPA Summer is a model student, and one that should be held up as an example for the rest of the student body. I certainly encourage my daughters to emulate her example. As two of my daughters attend Hickory Ridge (and another will next year) they are certainly in a position to take an example from this situation. What they learn will be influenced by the actions that the school determines to take.

Summer is being suspended and not allowed to graduate because she wore a shirt that showed part of her shoulders. Even after she covered up she was threatened with arrest if she did not go alone with an adult she did not trust. None of the response by Principal Cline is remotely an appropriate, measured response to this perceived violation.

As for whether this is a violation, I’m sure you can point at text that indicates a rule. However, Hickory Ridge High School’s dress code is grossly sexist and outdated. I have seen photographs of Summer in the shirt in question and she is not dressed provocatively. I would suggest that if any amount of skin is causing misbehavior among the young men at Hickory Ridge, then the problem is with the boys, and not at all with the dress of the young women.

This unfortunate incident is an outrageous display of backwards thinking. And it displays North Carolina, and in particular our school system, as an disgusting example of oppression; where rules, even pointless and possibly damaging ones, are more important that hard work and study.

I would encourage the school board to reconsider Ms. Cline’s employment, if it is so important to her to enforce a misguided dress code that she would willingly involve police enforcement and risk a young woman’s future over a shirt.

The stated mission of Cabarrus County Schools is “empowering students to build their futures,” and the first stated goal to achieving that mission is that “every student in the Cabarrus County School system will graduate from high school prepared for work, further education, and citizenship” (http://www.cabarrus.k12.nc.us/cms/lib09/NC01910456/Centricity/Domain/4/_Measure_Strategic_Plan_V115.pdf). Draconian enforcement of a policy that is, at best, trivial, is a distraction from that mission and goal. It does nothing to achieve it, and in fact, we can see that it quite literally hampers the goal and mission. Summer has not been empowered by this incident. I challenge you to indicate any student empowered by these events. Suspending a student over a shirt does not prepare her for work or education, and only teaches her that the authority in power must be obeyed at any cost — hardly a good measure of citizenship. She will not graduate, so that only hurts the county numbers.

I look forward to the public statement that repudiates this suspension, restores Summer, and apologizes for the mistreatment given her.

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