The Southern Legal Resource Center
For Immediate Release: Monday, January 9, 2006
SLRC client to receive apology; school will clarify dress code
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO – A Missouri school board has said through its attorney that it will issue an apology to a student who was turned away from a school dance last fall for wearing a Scottish kilt in his family’s tartan.
The Board of Education of Jackson R-2 school district will issue the apology and will also undertake “to train administrators and staff in the proper application of the school’s dress code” according to the text of a letter the Board is expected to issue to high school senior Nathan Todd Warmack, who was barred from Jackson High School’s Silver Arrow Dance in November, at the Board’s regular meeting this evening.
The letter stipulates that the school will perform its actions in exchange for Warmack’s agreement not to bring suit against the school district or its employees, according to Kirk D. Lyons, Chief Trial Counsel for the Southern legal Resource Center of Black Mountain, NC, which represents Warmack. Lyons said he received confirmation that the board would issue the letter from its attorney, Steven Wright, early Monday.
On the evening of Nov. 5, Warmack, a Jackson High varsity football star, and his date were barred from entering the dance by Principal Rick McClard. Both Warmack and his date later said McClard told Warmack he could not be admitted “dressed like a clown.” Warmack has stated that the official told him to change clothes or face police action and a six-week suspension from school. He went home, changed into khaki trousers and was allowed to go inside.
The incident sparked outrage among Scottish heritage groups, who bombarded school officials with letters, e-mails and a petition with approximately 12,000 signatures.
The Warmacks then retained the SLRC, as it is known, which is a nonprofit legal organization best known for representing clients whose civil rights have been violated in situations involving Southern heritage and culture. The SLRC achieved a significant legal victory in 2003 when it persuaded a federal court of appeals to overturn a Kentucky school board’s ban on clothing depicting the Confederate flag. Presently the SLRC is suing another school board on behalf of a student who was turned away from her high school prom for wearing an evening gown with a Confederate flag motif.
On learning they intended to pursue the matter legally, the school’s principal issued a letter to the Warmack family indicating that Nathan could wear his kilt to school functions provided it caused no disruption, but neither the Warmacks nor the SLRC was satisfied. “Our clients understandably asked for an apology,” said Lyons, who traveled to Missouri for the school board meeting. “The principal’s letter was not an apology, it was a justification of the school’s actions and a backhanded admission that Nate has the right to wear his family’s national dress. That was insufficient. We are all gratified that the board has seen fit to address the larger issues here and act appropriately.”
“We at the SLRC are very pleased that we could help Nate,” said Roger McCredie, the SLRC’s Executive Director. This is not a departure from what we usually do, it’s a logical extension of it. Civil rights are civil rights. Besides, we understand about Scottish heritage around here.” Lyons, a member of several Scottish societies, has a kilt. McCredie, who founded the Clan Stewart Society in America and was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, has two.
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