Members of the Haitian community were stunned after learning six Florida high school students were suspended for celebrating their heritage by wearing Haitian flag shirts on Haitian Flag Day, according to the Naples Daily News.
Although Haitian Flag Day is celebrated on May 18, which landed on a school day, students were prohibited from celebrating it on campus as it goes against school policy, which states that “Florida students are barred from wearing all but four flags: the United States flag, the state flag, the POW/MIA flag or the school flag.”
These students were sent home from school for wearing a Haitian flag… on Haitian Flag Day.https://t.co/tKr2lLEHpA pic.twitter.com/BN1oPUZWkA
— Fusion (@Fusion) May 20, 2016
The Collier County’s school code also states that “the wearing or display of flags on our campuses has historically and currently caused dissension along with a potentially unsafe and hostile learning environment for our students.”
However, six Immokalee High School students learned the hard way when they arrived at school on Wednesday morning and were confronted by their principal Ken Fairbanks, who gave them the option to change their attire or suffer the consequences. After their refusal, all six Immokalee High School students were suspended for wearing shirts with an imprinted Haitian flag.
The suspension sent several Immokalee residents into an uproar, leading some to believe that the gesture was a racial issue. However, the Collier County school district stated that they have nothing against Haitian Flag Day. It is the on-campus disturbance that is associated with celebrating Haitian Flag Day that school officials seems to have an issue.
Student Mervilus Alverson stated, “you should be free to represent where you come from. If the school doesn’t have a uniform code, there should be no problem if they’re wearing a shirt.”
Another student Cassidy Previlus, who is a sophomore at Immokalee High School, said, “This is the day that we got our freedom. Why wouldn’t I represent? I felt discriminated. We weren’t allowed to wear our own shirts.”
“I understand them taking bandanas, but a T-shirt? If they do not want us to wear our shirts, they should have told us the day before.”
According to the Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement for Collier County Public Schools, Greg Turchetta, “everyone on campus, especially that campus, is aware of what you can and cannot do.”
It was later stated that “exceptions can be made for national flags on special occasions,” but when asked what would the students like to do to celebrate Haitian Flag Day, it was stated that no one “approached the principal ahead of time.”
According to the Palm Beach News, after the six students were suspended from school for wearing shirts with the Haitian flag imprinted on it to celebrate Haitian Flag day, Turchetta explained that “flags can’t be worn in school during the day with the exception of American flags, POW/MIA flag, the state flag or the school flag to avoid disruption.”
— WFTV Eyewitness News (@WFTV) May 21, 2016
“Our ultimate goal is to make sure the academic day is not impacted by anything,” Turchetta continued. “Last year we had 200 kids running down the hallways and blaring music.”
“There are assessments going on at the school. Obviously, it’s imperative that there are no disruptions on that campus today.”
One of the suspended students Ronaldo Dheirry Cadet was perplexed as to why he was unable to celebrate his heritage, saying, “I can’t wear this shirt because it has the Haitian flag on it. That’s racist. Why I can’t wear my flag today?”
Sophomore Casidy Previlus said, “On Cinco de Mayo, they had all the tacos and we didn’t say nothing. But when it came to Haitian Flag Day, they wanted to take away our fun.”
It was not immediately clear how long the Immokalee High School students were suspended for refusing to change their shirts, which had the Haitian Flag imprinted on it, but the suspension brought awareness to the Collier Public School’s code, which states that flags other than “American flags, POW/MIA flag, the state flag or the school flag” are not allowed.
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