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Yuma teen leads drive against dress code

YUMA – Many children dislike following school dress codes, but one Arizona student is doing something about it.

Fourteen-year-old Justin Wright says he’s standing up for his constitutional rights in his fight to repeal the dress code at Centennial Middle School in Yuma in favor of street clothes.

The district requires students of Wright’s age to wear solid navy, red or white shirts; pants, jeans, shorts, capris, skirts and skorts are allowed, as long as they’re khaki, navy or plain denim. Athletic shoes, sandals and heels of 1 inch or less are allowed, but students can’t wear flip flops or shoes with tiny wheels on the bottom for gliding.

He wrote a letter against the dress code to the Crane Elementary School District governing board and has collected 250 signatures from students who want the code repealed. He said he wants about 300 more to make a statement to the board.

Wright said not only does the policy violate students’ right to free speech, but it also costs families more money to buy special items than having students wear their regular clothes.

District spokesman Chris Weigel said students’ free speech rights aren’t being infringed upon by the dress code.

He said research revealed uniforms are less expensive than street clothes.

Scott Jones, Wright’s language arts teacher, said he wasn’t comfortable taking a position on the petition drive, but did say he was proud of the appropriate way Wright has conducted himself.

Although he is graduating middle school next month, Wright said his success may save other students from following a dress code. He hopes a successful petition drive could influence high schools to also abandon a code.

“Maybe I can get this started again next year (at high school) and I can get really serious and get the attention of the TV news,” he said. “That way I’ll get more support.”

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