North Carolina mom Amanda Dixon says her daughter fought “tooth and nail” to complete her high school diploma, struggling with learning disabilities and bullying throughout her years at school.
But, when a school administrator did not allow her daughter to walk at Ashe County High School graduation in West Jefferson, N.C., on Friday because she was not wearing dress shoes, Amanda felt like the teen’s “shining moment” was taken away.
“The fact that my daughter couldn’t walk because of black Converse tennis shoes is ridiculous. Fourteen years of other students not accepting her, of other teachers not knowing how to teach her. She never gave up, she kept her head held high,” Dixon tells Yahoo Lifestyle, requesting her daughter’s name not be revealed for privacy reasons.
“[Ashe County High School] has taken away a moment from my daughter that can never be replaced. This was her shining moment.”
For her graduation ceremony, Dixon’s daughter proudly wore a white button-up T-shirt, a checkered tie, black slacks, bright red hair and a pair of high-top black Converse. Her teachers even complimented her on her outfit.
“It’s the outfit she wore to graduation and prom. It was approved for prom— which is more formal— and should be approved for graduation,” the 38-year-old mom says.
The ceremony was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday evening— but before the festivities could begin, Dixon recalls receiving a distraught call from her daughter.
“I get a call from my daughter crying and she said, ‘Mom, they aren’t going to let me walk.’”
An Ashe County school administrator, who Dixon says her daughter previously had issues with, told the student she would not be allowed to walk because her black Converse did not meet the dress attire guidelines. With 25 minutes before the ceremony started, Dixon says it would have been impossible to go buy her daughter shoes in time. Although Dixon’s daughter was offered a different pair of shoes from a shoe closet and also from a teacher, Dixon says the shoes were either too big or too small.
“They said they gave her choices but they didn’t,” Dixon tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “in my opinion, there was never an option. They told her to wear shoes that are too small, too big or your father’s work boots.”
Dixon says she got into a heated argument with the school administrator but to no avail. Dixon’s daughter became so distraught that she did not attend her graduation ceremony.“She left and sat in her car and cried,” says Dixon.
According to a statement from Ashe County High School, students are expected to wear “dress clothing as well as dress shoes” to participate in the ceremony, adding that students are informed of the guidelines months prior to the event.
“It is written in the graduation informational letter and stressed that if students inappropriately dress they will receive diplomas the following Monday, but they will not be allowed to participate in the ceremony,” reads a statement obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle.
“In the seven years I have been an administrator in Ashe County High School, we have always supplied any clothing needs for any student,” Ashe County High School Principal Amanda Hipp said in the statement. “Students have the choice to comply or not walk.”
Dixon points out that students wearing cowboy boots, Birkenstocks, Ugg boots and other “informal footwear” were allowed to participate in the ceremony. That’s why she believes her daughter— a queer teenage girl with fiery red hair— is being discriminated against for not fitting in the “cookie-cutter Southern belle Bible mold.”
“You can’t have colorful hair, you can’t wear pants because you’re a girl— you should wear a dress. She’s not worn a dress since sixth grade,” Dixon says in a YouTube video explaining what happened to her daughter. “This was her day. This was her ceremony just like all the other students that were there. Her wearing Converse shoes was not wasn’t going to hurt anything.”
Now, the North Carolina mom is fighting to change the requirements for being able to walk at graduation.
“The common dress code for students should be what is followed for graduation just like any other school day. You should not be prohibited from walking because you are wearing blue jeans, sneakers, or are pregnant,” reads an online petition that Dixon started. “If your grades make the cut and your clothes follow normal dress code you should be able to walk across [the] stage.”
Dixon is now in the process of filing a formal complaint with the Ashe County School Board. While she says she hopes to achieve a little fairness for her daughter and other students that have felt ostracized by the school district, she wishes she handled it differently.
“The tears we cried over the years for this —I just wanted her to be able to walk,” says an emotional Dixon. “If I could go back in time and pick up my daughter a different pair of shoes, I would have.”
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