One New Jersey charter school’s decision to turn away students on the first day of classes for seemingly minor dress code violations has outraged many, both within and beyond the school community.
On August 27, reportedly “half” of the high schoolers enrolled at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark were dismissed upon arrival for their first day of classes for being out of uniform, NJ.com reports.
As the students proceeded to gather at a nearby park, local basketball coach Ma'at Mys spotted the group and paused the youth basketball camp he was running to investigate what happened.
“Marion P Thomas locked their doors to students who don’t have belts or all black shoes,” Mys wrote in a Facebook post with footage he captured at the time of conversations between himself and the Thomas students. “This is how charter schools help high risk children. If you have a child at the school, reach out to them.”
The clip has since gone viral with over 121,000 views and sparked great debate on the social platform.
While some Facebook commenters voiced support for the teens’ dismissal over the uniform abuses, others were furious that the students were refused entry - on the first day of classes - and were effectively locked out of the building.
Meanwhile, Interim Chief School Administrator Misha Simmonds told NJ.com that parents were immediately contacted if their child had been dismissed, and that school officials soon acknowledged that “turning students away wasn't the best approach for student safety.”
School administrators issued a letter next day that did not apologize for the incident but explained the logic behind the controversial decision.
“Since its inception, Marion P. Thomas Charter School has had a uniform policy. The policy is intended to help our school promote a more effective learning environment, foster school unity and bridge socioeconomic differences between children. Wearing a uniform teaches students appropriate dress and decorum in school, helps to improve student conduct and discipline and prepares them for their future workplace,” the statement read.
“Our high school team wanted to ensure our students complied with this policy, for all of the reasons aforementioned. Their best intentions led to some students being asked to return home. We have communicated with our families who were impacted by this decision.
"While we realize school policies are important, we recognize that our students’ well-being is our utmost importance. Therefore, we have implemented a process that will not compromise the safety of our high school students.”
Moving forward, the Thomas school has launched a fundraiser to gather regulation uniforms, footwear and accessories to “stock an emergency closet for our students.” In addition, Thomas students have been provided black tape to conceal any white detailing on their school shoes, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.