COVENTRY, R.I. – COVENTRY, R.I. (AP) — The superintendent of a Rhode Island school district that banned a second-grader's homemade hat because it displayed toy soldiers with tiny guns said Saturday he will work to change the policy to allow such apparel.
Ken Di Pietro said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the no-weapons policy shouldn't limit student expression, especially when students are depicting "tools of a profession or service," such as the military or police.
"The event exposed how a policy meant to ensure safe environments for students can become restrictive and can present an image counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy," Di Pietro said.
David Morales, an 8-year-old student at Tiogue School, made the hat after choosing a patriotic theme for a school project last week. He glued plastic Army figures to a camouflage baseball cap. But school officials banned the hat, saying the guns carried by the Army figures violated school policy.
The decision prompted criticism of the school and support for Morales. On Friday, the boy received a medal from Lt. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, the retired head of the Rhode Island National Guard. Centracchio said Morales should be thanked for recognizing veterans and soldiers.
"You did nothing wrong, and you did an outstanding job," Centracchio told the boy.
Di Pietro said Centracchio met with school officials and asked them to change the policy, and Di Pietro agreed to work with the school committee on a revision. Di Pietro said the incident obscured the district's strong support for the military.
He noted that Coventry schools sponsor one of only two Air Force Junior ROTC programs in the state.
"Coventry Public Schools has a long history of support for the military and for instilling patriotism in students," he said.