MEXICO, NY – More than 160 students gathered outside of Mexico High School this morning (April 18) in protest of their right to wear bandannas during spirit week.
The protest was more significant than bandannas themselves, however.
This year, students joined together to wear bandannas made in remembrance of their late classmate, Hunter Fox who passed away earlier this school year.
Emma Andrews, a senior at Mexico High School, said she originally shared the idea last week with her classmates via Facebook to all wear the bandannas in memory of Fox during class color day of spirit week, Friday (April 15).
Fox was a senior captain member of the Mexico varsity football team and always wore a bandanna, Andrews said.
“The bandannas that were made for Hunter had his initials on them and his football number, it was a part of who he was,” said Andrews. She said that many were sold by Fox’s family members with proceeds to benefit a memorial fund.
And while Andrews claims the students have been able to wear hats and bandannas during spirit week in previous years, she said this year more than 30 students received in-school suspension for wearing the bandannas.
“We just wanted to get our point across, it was unfair that we were not able to wear bandannas for spirit week this year when we just wanted to do it to remember a great friend,” said Andrews. “These are kids that never get in trouble, that now in their senior year have in-school suspensions just for showing support of their classmate.”
So, the following Monday morning, Andrews said a head count determined 163 students sat peacefully outside of Mexico High School, all wearing bandannas.
And while the protest was organized by two other senior students and Andrews wasn’t able to attend due to college courses she takes at the same time, she was proud of her fellow classmates for seeking justice.
“We just want the school board to notice we were hurt, all of us,” she said.
The protest ended with a resolution made by the school’s principal, Donald Root – if the students would return inside the school, they would be permitted to wear the bandannas for the remainder of the day and a meeting would be set up between concerned students, Principal Root and the Superintendent of Schools, Sean Bruno.
Root explained the reasoning behind the school’s reaction to wearing bandannas.
“Student council is the group that oversees spirit week and anyone is welcome to attend those meetings to decide how they want to set up the days throughout the week. Monday was hat day, so students were allowed to wear their hats that day,” said Root.
He further explained that students who continued to wear hats or bandannas throughout the week were asked to remove them. If the student did not comply, they would be sent to the in-school suspension room, the normal repercussion for any dress code violation.
On Friday, the students’ organization to wear bandannas in memory of Fox did not go through the proper channels to allow the breach in dress code policy, therefore all students were given the same option as always – comply to adhere to the dress code, or go to in-school suspension of which Root estimates roughly 15 students chose in-school.
“My only issue is that the students didn’t use the proper vehicle to address their concern,” said Root.
Instead, Root would have appreciated the students to utilize their student council, the group developed to address student concern. He recalls this being a successful method when students brought forth the request for another drinking fountain location in their school.
“I wish there was more communication prior to protesting, I don’t think that took place at all and as a result it went to a level that wasn’t necessary. The end result was a meeting with myself and the superintendent, that should have been requested first rather than take it to such an extent,” Root said.
Andrews is still pleased that the protest led to the resolution that it did, but recalls the ordeal as an emotional one.
“I was very upset,” she said. “I was crying all throughout the day, a lot of other kids were too. I just think (the school) handled it wrong, it was overboard.”