BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho cited alleged discriminatory dress code policies in a federal complaint filed against the Nampa School District on behalf of Latine students.
The complaint calls for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Educational Opportunities Section into the NSD.
In the complaint, the ACLU critiqued the NSD dress code policy for being too broad when concerning gang activity, allowing administration and police to ban anything they deem as gang-related. The NSD policies include restrictions on “attire connected to hate or gang groups.”
This complaint comes after the publication of “Proud to be Brown: Punishing Latine Culture in Idaho,” where the ACLU found alleged widespread discriminatory policies in both NSD and Caldwell School District that target Latine students.
"No attire connected to hate or gang groups such as hats, bandanas, rags, colors, shirts, sags, chains, BEING DRESSED IN A SINGLE COLOR, etc. is allowed," the NSD dress code states. "No number 13, 14, 18, or any numbers that add to those numbers may be worn. Additional items as identified by police personnel. Clothing or accessories including collars, bracelets, piercings and boots that include but are not limited to spikes, hoops or other dangerous items are not allowed."
While not formally set, the complaint claimed some schools in the district have an informal policy against wearing Catholic rosaries. The ACLU alleged that emails from Nampa's South Middle School reflect a “no rosaries” policy.
“This item has been used to show gang affiliation,” Dean of Students Marcos Sanchez wrote in an email.
The NSD made an official statement in response to the complaint, emphasizing a need to crack down on gang activity.
“The recent report published by the ACLU has brought attention to the complex issue of gang activity and violence in schools," the statement says. "Gangs and their history of violence have posed significant challenges to our district and community for many years. However, we are determined to confront this issue head-on and are deeply committed to creating schools and a community that are free from any form of gang activity. ... We want to emphasize that at no point have we endorsed or supported any practices that discriminate against any of our students.”
About 40% of NSD students identify as Latine according to the ACLU, one of the largest Latine populations in Idaho.
“Schools should prioritize fostering an environment that celebrates and recognizes—rather than punishes—the culture, ethnicity, and religious identities of Latines and other students of color,” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Sarah Hinger said. “We urge the Nampa School District to stop implementing gang dress codes, which have led to over-policing and targeting, and have jeopardized the rights of Latine students.”
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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