A high school principal in New Hampshire has apologized for telling a 14-year-old student to cover up a T-shirt she was wearing in support of President Donald Trump as well as a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Ciretta Mackenzie, a freshman at Epping High School, wore the gear to school on April 8 for its “America Day.”
The event featured students wear clothing with red, white, and blue. Ciretta’s shirt also featured those colors.
But principal Brian Ernest called her into his office and told her she had to remove the shirt.
.@EppingHighNH freshman Ciretta MacKenzie says she was taken out of class on Monday and told that her @realDonaldTrump T-shirt violated the dress code. #NBC10Boston #NECN pic.twitter.com/FzugxdTgEo
— Mike Manzoni NBC10 Boston (@MikeNBCBoston) April 11, 2019
Ernest then told her that Trump is a controversial president and that he didn’t want the shirt to make anyone feel uncomfortable, Ciretta told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Telling him she had no replacement, he said she would have to be sequestered from the other students. She found a friend’s sweatshirt to cover the shirt.
“I wasn’t upset. I was just kind of surprised, I guess,” she said. “I don’t think I should have been told to cover it up.”
“It’s just a shirt, and it only says Trump make America great again, it doesn’t say anything like build a wall, so I don’t get how it could be offensive, how it could be disrespectful,” she added to Boston 25. “If it said no political gear, I could understand why it was dress coded but it didn’t say that, so I feel like I’m obligated to have my own opinion and other people can have theirs. We don’t have to agree, that’s fine.”
Epping High freshman Ciretta MacKenzie wasn’t trying to make a statement in her ‘Make America Great Again’ T-shirt, students had been asked to wear red, white and blue to celebrate American pride. Then the school told her to remove it or else.https://t.co/olnzIPvrIu pic.twitter.com/3yI6BBLdmJ
— UnionLeader.com (@UnionLeader) April 10, 2019
The unusual decision prompted an investigation by Superintendent Valerie McKenney, who said that Ernest was in the wrong.
“The Epping School Board and Epping District’s position is that this event should not ever have taken place, and we are committed to the creation of a school environment that promotes open and free thought and dialogue,” McKenney wrote in a letter to the school community.
Ernest initially declined to comment but he later said in a letter to the community obtained by CBS that he apologized to Ciretta and her family.
“We have begun to draft a plan to move forward to promote civil discourse and diversity in our schools. In retrospect, I want to fully acknowledge my error in judgment and sincerely apologize if my actions were misinterpreted and offended anyone. That was never my intention,” he said.
— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) April 13, 2019
“I want our students to be free thinkers and be able to express their opinions in a respectful manner,” he added.
Ciretta’s mother said that the family accepted the apology.
The situation is the latest in a string of incidents involving Trump gear in schools, not to mention the general public. A California student was charged with assault after ripping a “MAGA” hat off the head of another student late last year; another California high schooler was told in February that she couldn’t wear a “MAGA” hat on school grounds; and a New York state principal was replaced in February after she said she was “fighting against an intrenched [sic] conservative, MAGA hat-wearing culture.”
“I allowed my personal political beliefs to overshadow that message, which ultimately is that I care deeply for the welfare and success of Sandy Creek students,” Emily Wemmer wrote in a letter to the school community and being moved to another job within the district.