BAKERSFIELD - A mother is considering taking legal action over the Kern High School District's dress code policy. She says a Centennial High School staff member made her freshman daughter change into a Mr. Potato Head t-shirt on the first day of school, calling the shirt she was wearing, inappropriate.
The school district admits the way the school handled the situation was wrong and officials have apologized to the family. But, that may not be enough.
The mother would not talk to 17 News on camera because of possible litigation, but she sent us her daughter's pictures.
Starting the school year in style, the Centennial High freshman chose to wear a thin skull tank top with a bandeau bra underneath and teal green shorts on her first day. But when she got to class, she was sent to the office for her shirt.
"While she wore something underneath, her midriff was somewhat visible and we don't allow bare midriffs at school," said John Teves with the Kern High School District.
But, Teves admits what happened next was the school's mistake. Centennial staff did not let the girl call her parents for a different shirt. Instead, she was given a Mr. Potato Head shirt with the word "loaner" written on it.
"What was inarguable was that she was not given the chance to call her mother. She was given something to wear back to the classroom that was not appropriate," said Teves.
Teves says if parents can't bring a change of clothes, a plain shirt should be provided. And, the first week of class is the most confusing for new students and staff over what can and can't be worn because district rules are vague.
They say administrators can make "case by case" judgments following guidelines "prohibiting disruptive clothing, inappropriate slogans or illustrations, revealing attire, dangerous or unsafe apparel, and gang-related articles."
"No, I think there are bigger issues than to think about then what the kids wear," said Tara Horn, parent of a high school student.
"I do think that they should have a modesty standard," said Karen Carter, parent of a high school student. "I think the boys should have a place to put their eyes and it should not be on the girls. So, I'm okay with the dress standards. I would like to see them be even a little more strict to be honest with you."
While Teves admits the vague rules leave room for interpretation from campus to campus, he says they have to keep them that way to stay current.
"Fashions change. What goes on in the gang world changes. Gang affiliation can change from a color of a hat to a color of shoelaces and we have to keep things vague so they can remain fluid enough that we can deal with these things as needed," said Teves.
Teves says no staff at Centennial High was reprimanded. However, they were refreshed of school policy about dress code violations. And, the Mr. Potato Head shirt and others like it were destroyed.