Graduation dispute over dress code

June 24, 2009 3:48:19 PM PDT
An ugly controversy is brewing between a family from Staten Island and school principal. Selena Lopez, 12, was supposed to participate in her fifth-grade graduation ceremony, but she didn't. Her family claims she was sent home because of her outfit. The school calls it a misunderstanding.

"I didn't know what to say," PS 31 graduate Selena Lopez said. "I was sad. I was embarrassed."

The fifth-grader says she missed out on her graduation Tuesday because of what she was wearing, a blue and and black gown, which was not considered proper attire. Selena's mother was at home, sick, while Selena attended the graduation with her father and her aunt. Edwina Register say the principal, Patricia Covington, told them to go home.

"She didn't say, 'Selena, oh, we have some extra clothes for you to wear,'" she said. "No, she didn't say any of that. She told us to go home."

Covington disagrees. She insists that she did offer Selena's family some clothing provided by the school. She also says she never said "go home," that instead, the family just left on their own.

And another teacher who was at the graduation also spoke on the principal's behalf.

Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager: "Why weren't those clothes offered to Selena?" Teacher Janet McCarthy: "I believe they were. But the aunt didn't want any part of it."

Covington was happy to show some of the spare clothing they offered. But Selena and her family maintain that is not how things happened.

Sager: "She just said you have to leave?" (Selena shakes her head yes) Sager: "Did she ever say, 'We have other stuff you can wear?" Selena: "No." Sager: "Never did that?" Selena: "No."

"This is my baby," mom Goldie Lopez said. "I only have one daughter. She's 12. I wanted her to walk across that stage."

They say they would've liked to see her pick up her diploma and three awards in reading, math and computers, but school officials say rules are rules. They add that those rules were outlined clearly in a notice.

"She's a victim, but I feel the parents knew what was required," McCarthy said.

The good news, if there is any, is that Selena did wear the dress later on, to her prom.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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