When 14-year-old Michael McIntyre wore a t-shirt to school in support of the U.S. Marines, he had no idea a national controversy would follow. But that’s exactly what happened after the student at Genoa-Kingston Middle School in Genoa, Ill., was told to remove the shirt by a teacher who said that it violated the dress code. According to Fox News, the student was even threatened with suspension if he refused to comply.
Michael fulfilled the request by turning the shirt inside out, although he was confused, as he had reportedly worn it to school many times before without incident. The shirt, which simply said, “Marines,” had an image of two intersecting rifles. And according to the boy’s father, Daniel McIntyre, it was the guns that captured that teacher’s attention.
Rather than going directly to the school after the incident unfolded on Monday, the parent reached out to media. As a result, the district is claiming that they were unaware of the situation until they were approached by Fox News; Daniel contacted the outlet after talking about the issue with his son, the Daily Chronicle reports.
Despite the teacher’s actions, Superintendent Joe Burgess told the parent that the district would have overturned the decision had they known about it. While educator Karen Deverell told the student to remove the shirt, protocol for staff members who are unsure whether clothing violates policy is to send the student to the principal who then makes the final determination.
In the wake of the incident, district officials have been extremely supportive of the family. Rather than a violent symbol, Burgess noted that the rifles on the shirt are well-known as images associated with the Marines. He also reiterated that Michael didn’t commit a dress-code violation.
“Very simply, it’s not a violation. It’s a very common symbol for the U.S. Marines,” Burgess told the Chronicle. ”Had we had an opportunity to discuss it, we could have straightened out the situation.”
The district head also noted the school system’s support for the military, highlighting commemorative events for Veterans Day and Patriot Day and other activities that are conducted by students and faculty, alike, to support the armed forces.
“We’ve been accused of a lot of things, but our middle school is well-known for its support of the armed forces,” Burgess said in an interview with Fox News. “That’s why this is so disheartening to all of us.”
Daniel, though, told Fox that he found the entire incident unsettling and that the district needs to use discretion when making determinations about clothing. He also noted that clarifications may need to be made to the code in an effort to avoid future issues for children who show up wearing attire that supports the military.
“When my son wears a shirt that says Marines on it, I think they show terrible taste in telling him to cover it up, and they need to use better discretion,” he said.