High school students raising concerns about ‘memorial wear' in Duval County

District crackdown on memorial t-shirts

Students and parents at Lee High School fear they could get in trouble for wearing jewelry honoring deceased loved ones.

Students allege they were told they could no longer wear jewelry or clothing memorializing those who had passed away.

“That we’re not allowed to wear any RIP shirts, necklaces, rings, anything RIP-related,” said one student, whose mother asked that her identity be concealed. “Everybody else was really mad. I was just surprised.”

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Duval County Public Schools says an announcement was made at the school, but they told Action News Jax's Ryan Nelson it was not to ban all memorial clothes and jewelry.

Spokesperson Laureen Ricks says it was a reminder of the district’s anti-gang codes as they relate to memorial wear.

She said in a statement:

“Gang-affiliated clothing and paraphernalia is unacceptable. Specific examples – including readily-identifiable gang colors and gang-related memorial tributes -- are prohibited.”

The district’s dress code within the code of conduct doesn’t explicitly ban “gang-related memorial tributes” or “gang colors” but the code of conduct does list “gang activity or expression” as an infraction.

Parents like Jennifer Cottle say the district’s position is too open-ended.

“I’m kind of both-sided on it,” said Cottle.

Cottle believes it could prevent fights at schools, but she also thinks students should be able to honor loved ones without fear their clothing could be mistaken as being gang-related.

“I would like for her to be able to wear it,” said Cottle.

School staff and personnel decide what is gang-related and what is not. The district says they are trained by DCPS police in how to spot gang-related symbols.