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Why can't this lesbian teen have this picture of her posted in her yearbook?

Kelli Davis, who is openly gay, was dressed in tuxedo top and bow-tie outfit for her HS photo and that made the principal go apesh*t.

This young woman is a senior at a Florida high school. She has a 4.0 grade point average at Fleming Island High, is known as a conscientious teen with a part-time job and no discipline issues at school. Her crime? Wanting to have the above picture posted in her high school yearbook. It was rejected, as you will see below, because her principal has issues. Unacceptable issues. (Lakeland Ledger):

The picture of a lesbian student dressed in a tuxedo will not be permitted in her school’s yearbook, the Clay County school officials decided.

Principal Sam Ward of Fleming Island High School made the initial decision to pull Kelli Davis’s picture from the yearbook, saying he did so because Davis, who is openly gay, was dressed in boy’s clothes. The county school board and its superintendent backed the decision, which was debated at a School Board meeting attended by about 200 people.

Fifteen of the 24 people who spoke at the meeting were in favor of Davis and nine supported the principal’s decision. Kelli’s mother, Cindi Davis, asked the board to reverse Ward’s decision. “This is not to be treated as a gay right’s issue,” her mother said. “Rather it’s a human rights issue.”

Some applauded Ward’s decision, including Karen Gordon, who said, “When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds.” School officials have maintained that sexual preference is not the issue, it is gender. They said since Davis did not follow the rules on dress, she will not be in the yearbook.

Bruce Bickner, an attorney representing the School Board, said there is no written dress code for senior pictures, but also said the district gives principals the authority to set standards. The board took no action to reverse Ward’s decision and Superintendent David Owens said the decision will stand.

Here is the Dress Code established by the County Board:

4.03 STUDENT DRESS All students shall be properly groomed and attired when on school property or participating in school activities. Students shall be dressed so they will not present a clear danger to health and safety; nor shall they be dressed in indecent or obscene attire; nor shall they be dressed in a manner, which causes an interference with work or creates classroom or school disorder. (Ref. F.S. 1001.41) (Adopted: 01/08/81)

Here is the dress code policy of the Fleming Island High School.

Our dress code is set by the county school board. Please, no hats, bandannas or any other headgear is permitted. Also, you cannot wear halter-tops, midriff tops, tube tops, mesh shirts, or muscle shirts. Clothing should be in good taste and not distract others from learning in class. Safety issues mandate that student not wear spiked jewelry or heavy chains. It is strongly recommended that students not wear backless shoes or “flip-flops” in an effort to curtail accidents on the stairwells.

There is an An excellent, in-depth piece on the controversy is available at altweeklies. I think the following snippet tells us a lot about this principal. He is an uptight f*cktard — look at the clear issues he personally has with gender, identity and dress. In my opinion, he has no business running a school if he cannot present a rational justification for his ruling. The article also makes no bones about the fact that the last school that employed Ward was not sorry to see him leave.

Asked about the Kelli Davis controversy, Ward vacillates. Initially he explains that females in tuxedos are not in keeping with Fleming Island High School senior tradition. Reminded there is no such tradition since there has never before been a senior class, Ward is silent for a moment. Then he explains that senior class members voted to wear tuxedos and drapes, and their wishes should be respected. Pressed, he acknowledges that the entire class did not vote, only a few “representatives.” He also admits the outfits were not identified as gender-specific.

But female students wear drapes, and male students wear tuxedoes,” he pronounces firmly.

Asked what he finds so objectionable about Kelli Davis’ photo, Ward insists he’s never seen it — a statement that contradicts the claims of Cindi Davis, Scott Boggs and several students and teachers. Even having not seen it, however, Ward says he is certain “it is not uniform.”

Asked if he considers piercing, tattoos or orange hair uniform, he declines to answer. Asked what he would do if a student had religious objections to wearing a drape, Ward says the drape “could be adjusted” for religious purposes. Advised that there didn’t appear to be any school regulation that would allow him to declare Kelli’s photo unsuitable for the yearbook, Ward agrees. But he adds flatly that he makes the rules at Fleming Island High School. Then, although he’s spent most of the 40 minutes listening to the sound of his own voice and the squawk of the weather radio, Ward announces he has tired of questions. The interview is over.

If you want to let Sam Ward know this is completely unacceptable and sends a hateful message to LGBT youth, here’s the info you need:

Fleming Island High School
233 Village Square Parkway
Orange Park, FL 32003
Telephone 904-541-2100 * Fax 904-541-2110

Thanks to House Blend reader Pat for the pointer. Also see the DKos diary on the issue.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding