Teen suspended for breaking dress code with manicure continues his fight: ‘I will always advocate for equality’

Texas high school student Trevor Wilkinson got suspended for wearing nail polish class. Now he wants his district to change its dress code. (Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Wilkinson)
Texas high school student Trevor Wilkinson got suspended for wearing nail polish class. Now he wants his district to change its dress code. (Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Wilkinson)

A teen who was suspended for wearing nail polish at school isn’t backing down.

In early August, Trevor Wilkinson, an openly gay senior student at Clyde High School in Texas, came to school with a black manicure with colorful fire designs. “I wanted to express myself,” he tells Yahoo Life, adding that he was initially unaware that the Clyde Consolidated Independent School District handbook prohibits makeup and nail polish for male students.

Although Wilkinson says a classmate informed him that he was breaking the dress code, administrators that day did not notice his nail polish. However, feeling anxious about consequences, he decided that day to enroll in remote learning, a six-week program offered by his district amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve had issues with adults in my school before,” he explains. “I live in a conservative, close-minded town where diversity [isn’t celebrated].”

Wilkinson did not paint his nails again until November 30. That day, he arrived at school with a fresh manicure but during first-period class, his teacher sent him to the vice-principal’s office where he was told to either remove the nail polish or get an in-school suspension. “I told my vice principal that this felt discriminatory and homophobic, especially because I’ve felt targeted for years,” says Wilkinson. “She said, ‘I get it, but it’s policy.’”

Wilkinson chose the in-person suspension and that evening, he drew up a Change.org petition called “Allow males to wear nail polish” that’s since earned more than 328,000 signatures.

“It’s a complete double standard because girls are allowed to paint and get their nails done,” wrote Wilkinson. “Not only that, but freedom of expression is validation enough that the dress code and policy is not OK. I am a gay male and I’m beyond proud. This is unjust and not OK.”

Wilkinson called out sick and returned to school on Dec. 3— with his manicure intact — and was told to serve a second day of suspension. He says he showed administrators the petition, however their positions didn’t change. The following day, says Wilkinson, he attended another school meeting, striving for a middle ground, but it was unsuccessful. However, the teen has been attending school wearing nail polish since.

Kenny Berry, the superintendent of Clyde Consolidated Independent School District tells Yahoo Life in a Dec. 10 statement:

“The District conducts a diligent and thoughtful review of the dress code on an annual basis. That review process results in the development of a final dress code that will be consistently implemented and enforced during the next school year. Parents and students are provided with a copy of the dress code prior to the start of each new school year….”

Wilkinson spoke at a Dec. 15 Clyde CISD board meeting, where he described feeling unsafe. “Clyde doesn’t want to be the school that discriminates and I know that in my heart,” he said in footage posted to Twitter. “I understand that you guys have traditional values and I respect that, but to get respect you also have to give it...at what point do we look at the bigger picture and realize this isn’t 50 years ago? We’re all supposed to be equal...there’s a certain beauty in uniqueness and no one should have that taken away.”

On Tuesday, Berry sent Yahoo Life a follow-up statement:

“As set out in Board policy, Clyde CISD believes students should attend school in a safe and supportive environment that promotes equality for all, and the District takes all appropriate measures to ensure its actions align with that policy. While the District expects students to abide by established rules of conduct, the District is also always open to reconsidering policies or rules that do not reflect the District’s intentions. To that end, the District will conduct a thorough review of its dress code when it performs its annual review of the Student Handbook and, until that time, the District will assure that no student is treated in a discriminatory or inequitable manner. Under federal and state law, the District cannot publicly comment on or discuss specific student matters. However, be assured that the District appreciates the feedback and input that has been recently received from members of the community.”

Wilkinson, who will attend Texas Tech University in the fall where he’ll study political science and psychology before enrolling in law school, appreciates the school presently allowing him to attend classes but he wants to see a new dress code. “I don’t care if the rules change for me, but [more for] younger people who are afraid to accept themselves,” he tells Yahoo Life. In an Instagram post, Wilkinson, who recently got rainbow artificial nails, encouraged others to paint their nails to “challenge dangerous gender stereotypes” and use the #TeamTrevor hashtag.

“I will always advocate for equality,” Wilkinson tells Yahoo Life. “We’ve progressed so much and [the school] is taking three steps back.”

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