Students in Collier County Sent Home for Wearing Haitian Flag – WLRN

At least six students at Immokalee High School in Collier County were sent home Wednesday for wearing T-shirts bearing the Haitian flag. The school district insists the issue wasn’t Haiti but a longstanding school rule.
“In an effort to provide safe schools and prevent potential disruptions,” reads part of the district’s Code of Student Conduct, the only flags allowed to be displayed at Immokalee High School are “(1) the United States and the POW/MIA flags, (2) the state of Florida flag and (3) official school flags.”
In years past, Haitian students in Immokalee have marked Haitian Flag Day—in Haiti, May 18 is a national holiday akin to the Fourth of July—with red and blue clothing and Creole songs. Last year, according to district spokesperson Greg Turchetta, “We had 200 kids running around and singing in the cafeteria during the last part of lunch.” Turchetta said the school wanted to avoid anydisruptions on a day when some students were taking AP tests.
Sophomore Jesola Pierre told NBC 2 she and her friends were singled out the moment they showed up: “As soon as we got off the bus, a teacher’s like pointing at us like ‘these two.’” When they refused to take off their shirts, Pierre and several other students were sent home, she told TV news. “I missed a day of school, my work and all my classes for a shirt.”
The incident came the very same day as a lawsuit alleging Collier County Public Schools denied enrollment to Haitian students and steered them toward off-site adult GED classes.
Turchetta said students might have been allowed to celebrate the holiday if they had asked the principal in advance. Béatrice Jacquet, co-president of the Haitian American Democratic Club of Lee County, disagrees, saying the onus was on the school district to work with students: “They knew they had a problem last year. Why did they wait 12 months? They should not have waited until this year to address the situation during Haitain Flag Day celebrations, telling the students to take off their T-shirts.”
The district would not say whether the students faced additional discipline consequences.
In a separate incident, a student at JP Taravella High School in Broward County said she was suspended for taking to Twitter after the principal confiscated her flag during Haitian Flag Day celebrations, sparking an uproar on social media. School officials there were not immediately available for comment.


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