08/14/2012 11:44 am ET Updated Aug 14, 2012

Canton High Students Suspended On First Day Of School For Wearing 'Gang Related' Shoes

Nearly 100 Canton High School students received in-school suspensions on their first day last Wednesday after sporting neon-colored shoes, neon shoe strings and other “gang related” colors.

Principal Shirley Sanders told the Clarion-Ledger she does not know what prompted so many students to violate the dress code — outlined in an information packet distributed at registration — on the first day of school.

Sanders described the number as “unusually high,” and said some students were also inappropriately dressed on Thursday, but the number was “significantly lower.”

Despite being placed in in-school suspension, the students were permitted to contact their parents to bring them proper attire, WLBT reports.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, Canton’s dress code has been in place for several years, and requires students wear navy shirts, khaki pants or skirts and black or dark-colored shoes or white tennis shoes.

Charles Smith told the paper his daughter went to school with black and yellow Nike sneakers, and he brought a different pair when she called.

"It was kind of a simple mistake on her part," said Smith, who supports the school’s uniform policy. "If one child gets away with it, the others will follow suit."

Willie Ross, another Canton High parent, had a different reaction to the situation, telling WJTV that “the world [is] complaining about colors of shoes on kids in schools -- they ought to be glad the kids come to school.”

Shoes that are a combination of blue and black or red and black are banned due to their connections to two gangs in the area.

Harold Gray, gang investigator for the Madison County District Attorney's Office, told WJTV that gang activity in the Canton area is "spreading like a cancer" in the 12-17 age group, and commends Canton High School administrators for being proactive.

According to the Associated Press, school officials say the policy is meant to prevent bullying, competition and gang clashes. Sanders told the Clarion-Ledger most parents are supportive of the dress code restrictions, and are working with the school to ensure their children comply with them.

In June, students at Stuyvesant High School in New York City organized a “Slutty Wednesday” protest against the school’s new dress code. Nearly 100 students paraded around the streets of lower Manhattan in revealing clothing, armed with flyers that read, “Redress the Dress Code.”

Last October, a 12-year-old girl in Nebraska was told by her principal she couldn’t wear a necklace that resembled a rosary due to its resemblance to a gang symbol.



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