Some black students in San Diego public schools are being hassled by administrators who assume that any clothing of certain colors signifies a gang affiliation, school district trustee Shirley Weber complained this week at a board of education meeting.
Weber, a San Diego State University professor who is black, said several parents and some teachers have told her that “black kids feel singled out at certain schools for wearing red or blue, where other students can wear the same colors.
“They feel that there are all kinds of restrictions being put on them,” Weber said, asking Supt. Tom Payzant whether a February memo to all schools on how to spot gang dress has been carried to extremes.
Weber said the district could face legal action by public interest groups seeking to protect rights of students.
Payzant said the memo, prepared by police officers from the district and the city of San Diego, was meant to help principals in establishing dress guidelines and eliminating the wearing of gang-identification clothing on campuses.
The memo, for example, talks of red, blue or green bandannas worn by black gang members, about baseball caps altered to symbolize the names of certain gangs, and shirts with letters and certain colors indicating affiliation.
“The intent was not to prohibit the wearing of red or blue but to have the school people recognize that colors worn in a certain way do represent gang-related symbols,” Payzant said. “It is a matter of how the clothing is worn and what symbols.”
Payzant encouraged Weber or others to contact him if they believe individual schools have misinterpreted the guidelines.