A high school in Louisiana has reportedly decided that a transgender student’s photo will not be included in her senior yearbook because of an alleged dress code violation.
Kami Pham is a transgender woman and senior at Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. In an interview with the local ABC affiliate, Pham said she was told that her pictures would be pulled from her senior high school yearbook just two weeks prior to publication. All because she is dressed like a woman–wearing “feminine” attire and a wig.
According to that report, Southwood Principal Jeff Roberts told Pham that her appearance violates the school’s dress code because it is somehow inconsistent with Pham’s birth certificate. In the apparently offending photo, Pham is wearing a pink polo shirt tucked into blue jeans.
Think Progress obtained a copy of the school’s dress code and it doesn’t appear to reference gender at all. LGBTQ Editor Zack Ford notes:
[N]othing in Southwood’s dress code confirms this [alleged violation]. Indeed, it is entirely gender-neutral, with no relevant specifics about how hair can be worn. It’s impossible to conceive how Kami’s jeans and polo outfit could possibly violate the code.
Principal Roberts also reportedly said that if Pham wears similar clothing for graduation, she will not be allowed to walk the stage with her friends and classmates–but there’s some dispute as to whether this threat is still operative.
Pham’s friend, Tatjana Cotton, said, “If I wore that same outfit, there would be no problem, no one would say anything. So why treaty Kami any different just because of what her birth certificate says?” In response, Cotton quickly organized a meeting with community leaders to fight back against Roberts’ alleged censorship. And the community has mostly rallied in support of Pham.
Cotton told Law&Crime,“We have gotten a large amount of support from classmates and fellow students, but some backlash is present. The majority of younger people do care about Kami and support her choice.”
Pham’s friend continued, “Personally I felt the entire ordeal was ridiculous. It’s frustrating that it is 2018 and this even happened.”
In addition to the meeting, Cotton has been distributing “We Stand With Kami” bumperstickers at school. She also created a petition on Change.org in support of Pham. Describing the petition, Cotton wrote, “What we want is an apology and a rule change for all students so they can express themselves regardless of the gender on their birth certificate.”
Law&Crime reached out to Southwood High School but they are presently being instructed not to comment on the controversy. In response to another request, Caddo Parish School Board provided the following statement:
Recently allegations have been made concerning the rights of transgender students at Southwood High School and schools in our district. While federal and state law prohibits the district commenting on individual student cases, the district’s position is clear: Caddo Parish stands by the First Amendment right of students to express themselves and that belief is supported within the Caddo Parish School Board’s approved dress code policy. This expression is without regard to race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Caddo Parish Public School’s Director of Communication Mary Nash-Wood further clarified. In an email sent to Law&Crime she said, “The student’s photo will be a part of the senior wall and the student will participate in graduation in clothing appropriate to their gender identification in accordance with dress code.”
Cotton disputed that, however, saying that Pham was still waiting on confirmation as to whether she would be allowed to walk the stage dressed how she desires. Cotton also noted that time is running out for including Pham’s pictures in the yearbook because it’s being published days from now–but she is optimistic that the “desired outcome will be put into effect.” For now, Cotton says, it’s all in the superintendent’s hands.
[image via Kami Pham with permission]