Lori Carpenter came home on Oct. 20 to find her 12-year-old son, Dustin Cole, doing his homework with his shirt inside out.
The seventh-grader's shirt featured an interpretation of the California state flag, including the five-point star and a grizzly bear in an American flag pattern.
Officials at Cole’s school, Yuba Gardens Intermediate School in Olivehurst, California, told Carpenter that stars are now considered gang-related, Appeal-Democrat reported.
"He's an honor roll student, he's in California Junior Scholastic Federation and he gets A's," Carpenter told Appeal-Democrat. "He's a star student but he can't wear a star."
Principal Kari Ylst said the dress code at the school hasn’t changed in two years, and school administrators go over the rules twice a year with students.
According to Ben Martin, a detective with the Yuba County Sheriff's Department gang unit, the star on California’s flag, and Cole’s shirt, is being used by the Norteno street gang.
The number 31 is visible inside the star on Cole's shirt, indicating that California was the 31st state to join the union, but it’s also the inverse of 13, a number used by the Sureno gang.
"I wouldn't say that [California's Bear Flag] is necessarily gang attire itself, but if you put it with one or two elements, it could become gang attire," Martin said.
Carpenter thinks the school staff overreacted.
"I understand that they have a job to do to keep everybody safe," she said. "But I think that it's going way too far.”
According to Yuba Gardens Intermediate School’s code of conduct, their actions were justifiable.
“Due to the highly changeable nature of gang-associated clothing, the administration reserves the right to declare any clothing, accessory, colors of specific items of clothing, signs, and graffiti which has been identified as associated with gangs, as off-limits on the school premises,” the dress code reads.