According to the New York Daily News, school officials forced an 8-year-old Colorado boy to change his clothing because he wore his favorite player, Peyton Manning’s, jersey to school. The jersey violated school dress code because it had the number 18 on it, a perceived gang symbol.
The child’s dress violation comes days before Manning’s first start and win for the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning’s release from the Indianapolis Colts, where he played 14 seasons, captured national headlines after Manning sat out the 2011 season due to neck surgery. Manning announced in the spring of 2012 that he was taking his talents to the Denver Broncos.
So how does Peyton Manning equate to gang affiliation?
According to Colorado’s Greely-Evans School District officials, children cannot wear the numbers 13, 14 and 18, as well as the reversed digits of 31, 41 and 81, because of the numbers’ relation to gangs in the area. The school district also prohibits children from wearing red or blue shirts because of the connection to the Bloods and Crips gangs.
The numbers 13 and 14 are associated with Sureños and Norteños gangs. Peyton Manning’s number, 18, is associated with the 18th street gang.
What about Konnor?
Parents of 8-year-old Konnor Vanatta are unhappy with the school districts broad policy regarding numbers on clothing. Konnor, a third grader at Monfort Elementary School, was forced to change out of his Peyton Manning jersey.
In regards to the school districts policy on the number 18, Konnor’s mother, Pam Vanatta states, “It was absurd to me. I was shocked.” Ms. Vanatta states the Greely-Evans School District’s decision left her “speechless”.
District spokesman, Roger Fiedler, defended the school’s actions saying, “Since we did put this in place, we have had a reduction in the reports or incidents of students displaying gang attire and affiliation.”
Ms. Vanatta understands why the policy is in place, but feels the district may be overstepping in regards to her innocent elementary-aged son.
She argues, “When they are counting and when they’re learning their numbers, are they going to make them skip 14, 13, 41, 81, 18 when they are counting? It’s getting ridiculous.”
The school district said they may revisit and update the policy in the future, but as for now, the policy remains in place. “We would have to balance that against what issues we would have in our local community, “ Fiedler states.
Cases Similar to Konnor’s
Konnor’s case is not the first case of children being forced to change out of jerseys and other sports apparel because of school policies. Last month, school officials forced a 5-year-old kindergartner in Oklahoma City to turn his blue and yellow University of Michigan jersey inside out because it violated an anti-gang policy.
Even the University of South Carolina is not immune from causing dress code violations. Students in other states have been forced to change out of articles of clothing because the article of clothing contained the word “Cocks” on it, or the nickname for the University of South Carolina’s mascot.
It will be interesting to see how the Greely Evans School District adjusts their policy as Peyton Manning’s jersey continues to soar on sales charts and Manning continues to soar on the field. The NFL Shop states the quarterback’s jersey is the most popular seller on their website.
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