Officials drop dress-code rule that barred Lamar student from her own graduation
By Bobby Bryant
The Darlington County School District has tossed out a dress-code rule that kept a Lamar High School student from attending her own graduation last week.
Graduating senior Dynasia Clark told WPDE-TV she had to stand outside the fence around the school’s football stadium, where the ceremonies were being held, because she insisted on wearing pants, rather than a dress, under her gown.
Clark, who is openly gay, told WPDE: “I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, because we’re already here, we’re already fixing to walk, but now I can’t go because of a dress code. I was angry more than anything because we worked hard to even have a graduation and then I can’t walk because I don’t got on a dress.”
COVID-19 concerns forced the school district to plan virus-safe ceremonies at all four of its high schools June 2. Ceremonies were held at schools’ football stadiums so students and guests could “socially distance,” and most seniors – and all school personnel — wore face masks.
But a dress code required that females wear dresses under their gowns at graduation, Clark said. She refused, so she was excluded from the ceremonies. Clark told WPDE that school officials did not even call out her name as diplomas were handed out. “That was the part that made me more mad than anything because I was there; you could have least called my name,” Clark told WPDE. “It seems crazy to me. It seems stupid, like petty, because it was just an outfit to me.”
Backlash from the incident was immediate and angry. Two days after Clark’s story hit local news media, the county school district announced it had done away with the “dress-code issue” at the center of the conflict. The district said the incident was “extremely regrettable, and this circumstance has led to significant change throughout the Darlington County School District.”
The district said county Education Superintendent Tim Newman “has reached out to the student to apologize and assure her that her actions have led to positive change districtwide.”
“I appreciate the student for bringing her concern to our attention,” Newman said. “The Darlington County School District recognizes that the dress-code rule is not consistent with our commitment to being inclusive for all students. This practice has been eliminated, effective immediately.”
Shortly before the district’s statement Thursday, state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman offered her apologies to Clark and urged the county school district to kill the dress-code rule. She called it “antiquated and discriminatory,” and blamed it for preventing “one of our graduates from being recognized for a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.”
On June 6, friends gave Clark a “make-up” graduation ceremony at Cartersville Country Winery, during which she accepted her diploma from state Sen. Gerald Malloy.