Local News

Special needs boy misses graduation ceremony due to clothing

Posted June 11, 2010 10:48 p.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT

— 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.