Archived Story

Peaceful protest

Published 9:17am Friday, September 21, 2012

AHOSKIE – One local father is defending the rights of his daughter over freedom of personal expression.

And he took to the sidewalk near the Hertford County High School property to display his message of individual rights.

Joined by his daughter, Victoria, and her boyfriend, Mark Meeks, Darryl Ireland protested Thursday morning against certain portions of a dress code policy enforced by Hertford County Public Schools.

From left, Victoria Ireland, Mark Meeks and Darryl Ireland protest Hertford County Public Schools’ dress code policy as they walk along First Street on Thursday morning near the Hertford County High School campus. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

“I understand and agree that a policy is needed to outline what is proper for students to wear to school,” Ireland said, taking a brief break from his walking protest along First Street in front of the Ahoskie Cemetery. “At the same time you can’t step on the students’ constitutional rights and deny their freedom of expression. Myself and other parents are angered over this.”

Ireland said he has aired his grievances with Hertford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry as well as state education officials.

“I tried to get the state to show me, or give me some documentation on this issue,” he added. “I have shown our school system other cases of where students’ rights have been upheld in a courtroom.”

Ireland said he was told by Perry that Hertford County Public Schools are following the guidelines on student dress code from the North Carolina General Assembly.

“I’ve been on that (General Assembly) web site and researched the statutes; I can’t find anything that gives these schools the right to do what they’re doing,” he insisted.

“Again, I support a dress code for students, especially one that prevents baggy clothing and prevents a female student’s breasts from hanging out, but the one here is a bit overboard,” he said. “They’re taking kids out of class at the high school and checking to make sure they have the same color of socks on. There are at least 20 students in violation almost every school day, according to what my daughter is telling me.”

Ireland’s daughter, a senior at Hertford County High School, is one of those being signaled out. As typical of many young adults in today’s society, Victoria Ireland has several piercings on her face, each accompanied by round silver jewelry. Thus far since the start of school in August she has been suspended twice for violating the policy.

“She was sitting in class doing her work and (school officials) came by and pulled her out,” Ireland said. “There was a time when we use to fight to try and keep kids in school and not skipping class, and now they’re kicking kids in class out of school just because of their appearance.”

Ireland said the clothing his daughter wore to school met all the regulations.

He said he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and heard back from them earlier this week.

“They just won a case in Johnston County for a female student with a piercing in her nose,” he stated. “There, the school system spent $15,000 defending itself and then dropped the case.”

Ireland made reference to another case involving the Gay & Lesbian community, saying they won a legal battle to display their rainbow colors and wear triangle wrist bands in support of their cause.

“I’m asking our school board how is my student not afforded the same rights,” Ireland said. “Even with her piercings she’s not being a distraction to anybody.”

He admitted that while the schools’ dress code policy prohibits face piercings, it does permit earrings.

“You can wear other jewelry, necklaces and such, as long as they’re not in excess, but no face piercings are allowed,” Victoria said.

“They’re picking on the little things,” Ireland noted. “They took one girl out of class because she didn’t have a belt on. Everything else she had on was according to policy, but because she didn’t have a belt on they disrupted her education.

“We all have individual personalities and it should be your right to express them,” he added. “The school is overstepping its bounds. This is the same dress code policy that the county put in place several years ago, but now the issues have changed. When you take a peaceful student out of class over some nick-picky thing, it pushes my button the wrong way.”

Meeks said that one female student came back to class to start the new school year in August with a tiny streak of her hair a different color than the rest.

“They kicked her out,” he said. “(The policy) states your hair has to be one natural color. They claimed hers was abnormal and distracting.”

“When you start getting into the personal stuff, that’s when the school has crossed the line,” Ireland stressed. “There was one girl I saw in the (HCHS) office with beautiful hair that she had braided and neatly pulled back. They told her she had to take all of that out of her hair.”

He continued, “All I’m asking (the school board) is to review and revise the dress code policy. I’m doing what I’m doing to protect my daughter’s rights, and the rights of the other students. I served in the military, but it wasn’t so I could come home and fight Communism. That’s exactly what I feel is going on here. My daughter isn’t disturbing anybody, all she’s trying to do is pass her courses to graduate. Her rights are being violated.”

Based on conversations he said he’s had with other parents, Ireland said he expects a large turnout at Monday’s (Sept. 24) scheduled meeting of the School Board in Winton.

“They are wanting to voice their concerns over the same issues, Ireland said, adding there are at least three petitions circulating throughout the county in an effort for the school board to sit up and take notice of their concerns.

Ireland obtained permit from the Town of Ahoskie to conduct Thursday’s protest. He followed the letter of the permit by remaining off school property.

  1. hemlock

    Dear Daryl,
    I am really encouraged to see a parent who is concerned for his child. However, there are a few questions that I would like to ask you.

    1. Where were you when this was talked about? Why haven’t you raised your voice about it over the last 6 years that this policy has been in place?
    2. Is it okay for others to be oppressed, but not your daughter?
    3. Where were you when your daughter was failing her senior year because she was to lazy to come to school? She missed upwards of 40 days in the second semester. For those who do not know, there are 90 days in a semester.
    4. Why did you not protest when she was “coerced” by the communistic health care field to remove her piercings for one of her classes? Why were you no where to be found then?

    Here is a bit of advice, why don’t you count up her credits, and if she has more than 28, send her to Northhampton Co., where they have relaxed their uniform policy, and she does not have to take African-American History. Bet you she could transfer and graduate in the same day, and that would make everyone happy.

    Signed,
    Hemlock

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  2. 1tomcat

    From reading the comments on uniform policy some Hertford County PARENTS need to be reschooled. If you can not read and understand the Uniform Policy and take time to check your kids before school QUIT COMPLAINING when your kids are sent home because they desire to not follow guidelines. At least if they refuse to learn they will look good failing. Mercy I nearly forgot NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND what a joke that has become.

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  3. y-me

    To whom it may concern,
    I dont believe our children should ever be subjected to the scrutiny
    that this uniform policy imposes upon them. Our individualities and freedoms of expression
    are a few of many things that has made our country what it is today. Having been in 28 states
    and 5 countries. I fully understand the need for a dress code. However, when we start telling
    students how to make up their personal selves – we’ve stepped over the line. Our hair color is
    by our personal choice. Our hair styles, by personal choice and, our jewelery, makeup and, tattoes are our freedoms of expression. So long as these items do not create disturbance, distraction or pose a health risk to others in the school setting. Then we plead these rights be fully reinstated to our students. I’ve shown, where these rights were upheld in court cases of political, religious and, homosexuality. Need our students be catagorized as one of these, to be afforded these same rights? When we restrict our freedoms in order to protect them. Then we’ve already lost.
    Sincerely,
    Darryl B. Ireland – Father

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  4. y-me

    no, Skydrive piercing aren’t speech – there freedoms of expression / and the schools inadequacies haven’t gotten any better . if we were given a test over n over n over till we passed while the rest of the class sits idle – i’d have become a quantum physics engineer instead of a carpenter.

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  5. FreddieMac

    OK..Lets rationalize. I am by no means a genius but 20 students in a school of about 900 are not following directions. That would mean that 98% of the students are doing what they supposed to? Thats it…I am moving to Hertford County so my kids can attend Hertford County.

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  6. NCCU_EAGLE

    I graduated last year. I think she was with our graduating class. She cant blame the uniform policy. She should have been quoted as a SuperSenior! So the father should not be acting like he has an Honor Student doing everything by the book and she is just pulled out of class. I appreciate teachers telling me last year to pull my pants up because I have a professor at college right now that will not allow students in his class to sag. TAKE ALL THAT MESS OUT YOUR FACE; AND TRY TO GET A DIPLOMA LIKE THE REST OF YOUR CLASSMATES DID LAST YEAR!

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  7. bklies

    I would so much rather see protests about the school’s performance when it comes to meeting state standards. The academic performance of Hertford County High School is abysmal. According to its own web site, Hertford County High School did not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” and the school only met “9 (or 60.0%) out of 15 target goals.” Every parent of every public school student in the county should be outraged. Let’s see peaceful protests and sign-carriers with this message of demanded change.

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  8. amgilliam

    mr.ireland i feel on this situation with school uniform because my daughter was being harrased about a logo on her shoe. She said school officials are goin around each day checking the studnets shoes to see if they have logos on them. If their shoes have logos on them the students are being told to color them in or put on another pair of shoes. My daughter did not have another pair of shoes that day or nor did she color the logo in. My point is ehat does a logo on a shoe have to do with kids getting their education. If they are going to pull students out of class everday or kick them out of school then what is the point of the children going to school to get an education.

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  9. lemonshirt

    So he supports banning baggy pants, but not banning bolts thru a nose? I don’t think he’s residing under the same bell-curve of opinion that most of us are.

    Of course, neither was I when I was sporting mullet.

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  10. AlucidDream

    all i hear from skydrive is, “hey lets all live like slaves and, lets not protest government officals.” yet you sit behind your computer and not protest anything around you. reguardless of your views on the situation, skydrive, i’m sure you’ve never protested anything in your life. They have a freedom to protest and have valid points for their reasonings. trying to sound smart talking about amendments while the real criminals and masterbating all your money away is just plain stupid.

    It’s simple to see, if you have a family member in this kind of school system, that they are going overboard. Suspending for a belt, different color socks, or a few piercings is ridiculous.

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  11. resa1370

    I support him . I have a new neice(I recently married)who is an advanced honors student – she has piercings and often has bright colors dyed in her hair. It’s not hurting anyone and she is great student. The same applies here -it’s not hurting anyone and she was at school ,doing her schoolwork -why send them home? We are behind you Uncle Darryl

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  12. Skydrive6510

    “There shall be no jewelry affixed to student’s nose, lips, tongue, cheek, or eyebrow.” Isn’t this the policy at most places of employment? Public schools are supposed to provide a foundation of education that prepares students for the real world. I cannot think of many places of employment that find facial jewelry an acceptable means of dress at work so why should school systems allow it?

    Body piercings are not speech according to the First Amendment because it does not portray a particular message; therefore, that is no violation of freedom of expression. (Oleson v. Board of Educ)

    To successfully determine if First Amendment rights are violated by school uniform policy you must examine A) type of speech B) type of restriction C) O’Brien Analysis D) the surrounding context.

    The government has the right to limit First Amendment rights depending on the class of citizens involved; for example, children and adults. Student’s First Amendment rights do not apply traditional First Amendment jurisprudence when examining regulations of expression in public school.

    School authorities may ban speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission.

    Considering the student has the option to wear the jewelry outside of school and it has no religious affiliation there is no harm.

    If students and parents spent as much diligence on maintaining good attendance and academic standards we would all be better off.

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