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Special needs boy misses graduation ceremony due to clothing

Posted June 11, 2010
Updated June 15, 2010

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— The Vance County mother of an 11-year-old boy with special needs says her son was forced to miss his fifth-grade graduation because of the clothes he was wearing.

Jack Morgan said Friday that he was disappointed over not being allowed to attend the graduation and awards ceremony on Thursday at Aycock Elementary School in Henderson.

“I feel like a fool for not being able to attend my school graduation,” he said.

Jack's mother, Susan Morgan, said a dress code required all boys to wear a button-down shirt with a collar and dress or khaki pants to the event. It was a simple request for some, but not so easy for Jack.

“Jack can't wear those types of clothing because of his disability,” Susan Morgan explained.

Jack has numerous physical and mental disabilities, including severe Aspergers syndrome with which he struggles to wear certain textures. Instead, he wore sweatpants with a Polo shirt to school.

Because he did not meet the dress code, the principal sent him home.

“To have to leave school crying and miss his fifth-grade graduation, I think it could have been handled differently,” Susan Morgan said.

The mother said she talked with the school superintendent and he signed off on Jack wearing the outfit to an end-of-the-year dance.

She said he wore the outfit to the dance with no problem, but when it came to Jack's graduation ceremony, administrators had a change of heart.

“I feel it was discrimination,” Susan Morgan said.

The mother said she wants an explanation and apology from school administrators.

“I just think it was awful," she said. "I just think it wasn't fair to him."

Schools spokeswoman Terri Hedrick said Friday that the incident was handled at the school level.

“Vance County Schools does make any comment about any incident involving kids in our school system," Hedrick added.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Norman Shearin Jr. said Tuesday that the school's records show no documentation of Jack having Aspergers syndrome or autism.

“The mother (also) made no mention of this young man having Aspergers syndrome or Autism to anyone in the school or school system until the issue of the pants came up last Wednesday," Shearin said.

According to Shearin, the school principal offered to buy Jack the correct type of pants for the graduation ceremony, but his mother refused. The superintendent also said the school didn't send Jack home, but that the mother came to pick him up.


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  • sasha52 Jun 22, 2010

    Enough is enough. Not one single person that has posted a comment knows all the facts - 100% for sure and for certain. There are only a handful that work in the school system that do, plus Jack and his mother. He was not rejected, mistreated, or any other word you chose to use in your comments, only treated with kindness by folks willing to help. As far as the inconsistencies some of you mentioned, you can thank the media for that; they should not have been involved. Again, this would have been handled in a mature and professional manner within the school system if given the chance. For Jack's sake, let it rest...from one who knows.

  • jessicaralli Jun 18, 2010

    Also, don't forbid a child with a disability to participate in a school activity. No matter what the excuse (and I agree we need to hear more from the school's side), we know too much about Autism and Aspergers for this to happen in this day and age. The repercussions of this can be tragic, as many kids with Aspergers especially don't necessarily have the coping mechanisms to handle rejection like this.

    If Jack's family would like info on our adaptive clothing line for children with Autism, Aspergers and Sensory Processing Disorder, please email me at info@softclothing.net.

  • jessicaralli Jun 18, 2010

    I am a special educator from NYC. I think the complexity of this issue makes it a difficult situation for both the school and the parent, and especially the child. Tactile Defensiveness, which it seems is part of Jack's Aspergers diagnosis, is a real and quite common problem. I created an adaptive clothing line to address this problem, and I receive hundreds of emails from parents every week with similar stories--their children were kicked off sports teams, might not be included in a school assembly, can't be in the church choir, a family member is disappointed in the family holiday picture because the child couldn't properly dress up. There are many ways to work with this problem, through occupational therapy, adaptive clothing (which there is not enough of), and more. The community can help by being understanding--and asking questions if they do not understand a problem. Parents of children like Jack have to go through a lot of judgement--so before you judge, ask.

  • mromnek Jun 16, 2010

    The inconsistencies in the report raise serious red flags with me. It sounds like the Principal vetoed the decision of the Superintendant (if the report is accurate). The immediate question I asked on Friday when I first saw the report is "Why." The answer I came up with is perhaps there are two stories being told that are not consistent. One story being told to the school. Another story being told to the Superintendent.

    The inconsistencies raised by the edit to the story (at the tail of the print story) makes that hypothesis seem even more likely.

    Was there ever a dialogue between the mother and the administration before the dance and graduation?

    What is the status of the childs developmental condition?

    Why did the mother go to the Superintendent of Schools, bypassing the Principal?

    Why didn't the mother approach the child with a choice, would you rather wear these pants and go to graduation, or not go and wear the sweat pants? Then it would be the childs choice.

  • sasha52 Jun 16, 2010

    and to finish it up...Because of the media, most Americans are programmed to migrate toward the 'bad news' - it's as though they're eager to hear the worst. This story, indeed, has had an impact on us. We, as educators, will not give up - we're here for the children.

  • mromnek Jun 16, 2010

    There are inconsistencies in the report that I would like to see cleared up.
    1. The report said the mother cleared the sweat pants with Vance County Superintendent. However, the report also states there was no mention of the childs condition until the issue came up last wednesday.
    2. The edited report states, "school's records show no documentation of Jack having Aspergers syndrome or autism." However, the report also states he has "numerous physical and mental disabilities, including severe Aspergers syndrome." It's inconceivable a school can have a student with numerous physical and mental disabilities without documentation of such disabilities.
    3. The report claims the mother had buy-in from the Superintendent but it was the Principle who refused Jack's participation in the program.
    4. The report claims the student was sent home, however, the edited report states the student was never sent home, rather the mother came and picked him up.

  • sasha52 Jun 16, 2010

    since my previous comment was cut short,I will now finish it-she considers both sides of every situation and will go out of her way to help the children-even pick them up and take them home from school so they won't miss a school function if they don't have a ride.Enough of the negative comments and stories about our school systems..I invite you to come work and walk in our shoes.We give and give and give to the children and love tham all,no exceptions!As a conscientious reporter,did you even consider hearing the other side of the story if not to be fair but considerate as well.This could have been handled locally in a mature and professional manner but instead was on the news for all to hear.Our country is in a very delicate and grave state of affairs..what we need to see and hear are kind, sincere,& thoughtful words & stories.Yes,we need updates on the war, weather alerts,etc.but how about more news depicting good deeds.

  • hycomoditee Jun 16, 2010

    You no it so amazing how know parents want to voice their opinion on a subject that based on an opinion.If you read the paper then you will see that even the Dr. did n ot support her theory. Stick to the facts people stick to the facts. "Dress code" is set to whatever event that is at hand. There is a difference between dress code for a dance or graduation versus dress for the the entire school year. What are you going to do when he go to another school that has to where uniforms? You can not keep making excuses for your son just because the school was trying to help you and that sad part is you know this. You have put people, children, parents and others at war for nothing. And yes I am upset because other do not know the whole story. Facts, facts is what you need to support what you are putting out on the blogs and FB. In the end the only people thats gona get hurt is the children.

  • dianastoy Jun 16, 2010

    Dress code? You mean Vance county Schools have a dress code? When I pick my child up from HMS (Thank God this was the last year) I see no evidence of a dress code. All the boys are wearing T-shirt "Dresses" hanging down to their knees and they walk around with their the crotch of their pants between their knees. So I think it takes a lot of nerve for this school to tell this little boy they have a dress code and he isn't wear the proper attire. Schools seem to spend most of their time with little knit-picky stuff like this and not enough time actually teaching our kids. Are you aware of the fact that this generation of kids are not even being taught to write in script? A 16 year old boy went to a bank to cash his first pay check and couldn't because he wasn't taught to sign his name. I think the way the schools prioritizes things is appalling. Yes, they do owe this little boy an apology, but they will never be able to make up for what this family missed out on.

  • wildcat Jun 15, 2010

    I know. He's a very kind, sweet child and everyone at Aycock has done so much to help him.

    If you think that way, then the young man should have been allowed to graduate with his class regarding his circumstances.