Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Show-Me State" Education: Of Thistles And Kilts (Part II)

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at the story of the Missouri high school principal who had chastised a young man for wearing a Scottish kilt to a school dance. The principal had even referred to the student as a "clown." The whole thing became an international incident involving Scottish groups on both sides of the Atlantic.

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, for the
rest of the story:
The Jackson school board apologized Monday night to kilt-wearing high school senior Nathan Warmack, saying the student had every right to wear the Scottish attire to school functions.

The board's action, following a half-hour closed session, resolved a controversy that began last November when Warmack wore a kilt to a high school dance.

High school principal Rick McClard kicked Warmack out of the dance because he was wearing a kilt and refused to change into a pair of pants.

Warmack said he was just trying to honor his Scottish heritage.

Following Monday's meeting, he and his parents said they were pleased with the board's decision.

"I think it does settle it," said Warmack who attended the meeting dressed in a black-and-red plaid kilt.

"We are ecstatic with the decision they came to," said his father, Terry Warmack. "We were looking for an apology and we got it tonight," he said standing outside the board office.

Terry Warmack said he felt his son's constitutional rights were violated.

The controversy sparked an international debate about personal freedom and cultural dress. Thousands of people from around the world signed an Internet petition seeking an apology.

In a written statement, school superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said school officials had no right to bar the student from wearing a kilt to any school function.

Anderson also apologized in the letter, saying that Nathan Warmack was "humiliated" by McClard's action barring him from the November dance.

The superintendent promised in the letter that the district will train administrators and staff in the "proper application" of the dress code in an effort to prevent "future errors in interpretation."

In exchange, the Warmacks agreed they wouldn't take any legal action against school officials.

Anderson initially defended McClard's action, saying that school officials can bar a student from wearing clothes that create a substantial disruption.

But the district's lawyer, Steven Wright, said the kilt wasn't disruptive and didn't violate the district's dress code.

Kirk Lyons, a North Carolina lawyer of Scottish heritage who represented the Warmacks, said kilts are an important part of Scottish culture. "Scots are very touchy about their kilts," said Lyons who showed up for the meeting in a green plaid kilt.

Nathan Warmack said he plans to wear a kilt to the school prom this semester.
Even though there's more than a few dollops of Scottish blood running in my veins, I think that I'll forego the wearing of the plaid at least until the end of my service as a junior high school teacher.
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