Principal apologizes for 'Redneck' T-shirt incident

By Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter, amoore@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:11:06 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 14 2013 10:34:26 PM EST

They describe themselves as a "backwoods-living, gun-loving family from Louisiana, reflecting a southern picture of the American dream. And they proudly call themselves, "rednecks." Now a Jacksonville family is upset that their 7th grader has been told he is not allowed to wear this t-shirt to Mandarin Middle school, because of the phrase "REDNECK OF THE YEAR."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A mother says the principal of Mandarin Middle School has apologized over an incident Wednesday when her son was told to change his Duck Dynasty shirt because he was told the T-shirt was "offensive."

Bronwyn Ramsey told Channel 4 on Wednesday night she was upset with Duval County school's code of conduct rules after her 14-year-old son, Christopher Olsen, was pulled from class until she could bring him another shirt.

"If anything we work hard to instill good moral values and family values in our children and to me, this was almost like a slap in the face," said Ramsey.

Ramsey's son left for school Wednesday wearing a "Duck Dynasty" T-shirt. The shirt reads, "Redneck of the Year," with a picture of one of the stars from the popular A&E show.

"I don't feel like it's a violation of the school's code of conduct. It does not promote drugs, drinking, alcohol or violence," said Ramsey.

On Thursday, Ramsey said Principal Debbie Smith called her and apologized to her and her son over the incident. Smith told her the shirt is not banned and her son, can wear it anytime he wants.

Ramsey thinks it was a teacher that was offended, not school officials.

Interpretation of rules

According to Duval County schools, a student's clothing can be enforced by teachers, but they don't have any specific rules when it comes to wearing something with the word "redneck" on it.

"One of these ladies at the school walked in and asked me why I was wearing this shirt, 'It’s a slur,'" said Olsen.

"I personally didn't feel like it was negative," said Ramsey. "I mean, redneck to me is a hard working person from back in the day. It's a culture, it's a way of life and I just didn't feel like that should be a slur, be labeled a slur."

This isn't the first time the word "redneck" has been an issue within the Duval County Public School District. In January, former Duval Schools spokeswoman Jill Johnson was re-assigned after using the word to describe her husband.

In this most recent incident, the district told Channel 4 student attire falls under its code of conduct.

"School educators and administration use the code of conduct as a tool to guide decisions regarding the school environment," said spokeswoman Tia Ford.

Ramsey said the shirt doesn't promote drugs, alcohol or violence and she thinks there are bigger issues in school that teachers should be concerned about.

"I think they made a mountain out of a mole hill and I do not feel, I feel like there are bigger fish to fry than to worry about a simple little shirt of a national TV show that my son happened to wear one day at school," said Ramsey.

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