A Florida high school told a teenager who survived cancer twice that he was in violation of the school's dress code for wearing a T-shirt that celebrates him being a cancer survivor.
Tyler Powers, 16, was wearing a Relay for Life “survivor” T-shirt at Ridgewood High School in New Port Richey when he was pulled out of class.
“I was doing my work; I was causing no disruption whatsoever,” Powers, who is the junior class president, told TODAY.
A teacher told Powers that the American Cancer Society emblem on the T-shirt violated the school’s dress code, which mandates that logos cannot be larger than the size of a quarter.
“I have [a] purple Ridgewood shirt," Powers told Inside Edition."I assumed the shirt I grabbed that morning was a school shirt. I was extremely disappointed in the staff, anyone who has been at the high school for two weeks knows that I am a two-time leukemia survivor.”
Doctors diagnosed Powers with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of five, and he was cured at the age of seven. After a relapse, he was cured again at age 10.
The school gave Powers multiple options regarding his dress code violation: spend the day in-school suspension, call his parents and have them bring him a new shirt or change into a shirt provided by the school. He chose to change into a blue Ridgewood High School T-shirt.
The incident has upset Powers' parents.
"It's disturbing," his dad Tim Powers told TODAY. “There's nothing about the shirt that was demeaning or hateful. It's a positive message."
The school’s dress code is new, having been introduced at the start of the school year in August. It is aimed at improving academic and discipline problems, such as poor test scores, attendance rates and gang activity.
The school district said that the teacher who pulled Powers out of class was merely following the rules.
"She never noticed what was on his shirt and he ever mentioned anything about being a cancer survivor," Linda Cobbe, spokesperson for Pasco County Schools, said in an email sent to TODAY. "If he had said something, she would have listened empathetically and explained to him how the logo size limit applies to all shirts and that they can't discriminate by allowing one student to wear a special shirt."
Powers’ father believes the T-shirt should be allowed because it is a positive influence on others.
"We've been through all of this, we've lived this," Tim Powers said. "When kids are proud of accomplishments, they're a positive influence on other children. There are kids who look up to him. When something like this happens, it's almost like a slap in the face."
Powers told Inside Edition that he chose to change shirts to maintain a school record that is free from disciplinary issues.
“Overall I’m disappointed," he said. "They are saying they want to send a positive message through the dress code, but having a good at spirit school and being able to wear what you want, that helps you in school."