A black Texas high school senior, who decided to dress up as a slave for a campus costume event, says school officials told him to change his outfit to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable. The school district says otherwise.
During spirit week at Ridge Point High School, annual homecoming festivities encourage students dress up based on a daily theme. Tuesday was “Decades Day.” Many came decked out as flappers, greasers, hippies, and other fashionista-friendly eras. Senior Brian Ibe instead dug back to the 1600’s and came as a slave. He wore a pseudo-iron slave collar with chains bound to his wrists, a ball and chain around one of his ankles, and a shredded T-shirt splattered in fake blood to emulate whipping. He carried a pitchfork and bag of cotton.
“I wanted to be different,” Ibe told KPRC.
He insisted his social justice statement only intended to recognize his ancestors’ plight. He said school administrators told him to take the costume off. The district maintained Ibe was one of a handful of students cited for dress code violations.
Dress coded part 2 pic.twitter.com/t5XCvOOSyE
— Brian Ibe (@brian_ibe) September 27, 2016
“They said I should take it off before it starts problems and makes people uncomfortable,” said Ibe. He admitted some people might find the costume offensive, according to KPRC. Still, it is part of United States history and there is no reason to cover it up, he said.
In a statement, Fort Bend Independent School District spokeswoman Amanda Bubela commented that the district cannot share “specific information about any student” but school administrators reminded students “they will be enforcing the dress code despite the daily spirit week activities.”
“If a student is dressed inappropriately, and/or if their dress is considered a distraction to the learning environment, they will and have been asked to change clothes. In the last couple of days, less than a dozen students have been asked to change or modify their clothing,” it continued.
“Ridge Point High School is encouraging students to express their school spirit this week, while adhering to the dress code,” the statement read. “It is important that the campus maintain a distraction-free learning environment.”
The Fort Bend ISD 2016-17 Student/Parent Handbook lists dress and grooming criteria on pages 35-37. It points out that dress code violations “may be disciplined” using the Student Code of Conduct. This is the behavioral bible of Texas public schools, born out of the state’s 1995 Safe Schools Act and Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. The handbook states it may not cover every possible example of zero tolerance fashion. Thus, the district grants school administrators the “interpretative authority” to determine what is considered “inappropriate, disruptive, a hindrance to best learning situations, or a detriment to best discipline…”
Ibe told KPRC he changed out of his costume to avoid an in-school suspension (ISS).
While the teen described the high school’s handling of the matter as “really terrible,” his mother, Rose Ibe, told the Houston Chronicle, she understood Ridge Point’s decision and did not take offense. She did not want the situation to escalate, either. Ibe said she was very proud of her son and believed he chose his costume to remind people “slavery really did happen.”
“He’s a lively, social child,” she added. “He did what he did.”
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