A battle over the dress code is brewing at Apache Junction High School after videos of a student disagreeing with police over his bandanna went viral.
The school says the bandanna violated school dress code — although the code doesn’t explicitly mention bandannas. Students online allege the incident was racially motivated.
Four students were arrested in the incident, which occurred on campus Aug. 10.
In videos posted by students across social media, a student is seen walking back from an Apache Junction police officer on the school’s campus as the officer talks to him about removing a navy bandanna the student is wearing.
The student, who is black, can be heard telling the officer, “Why don’t you just take me out now and save yourself the trouble, bro.”
The officer addresses the crowd of students, saying, “It has nothing to do with the color of his skin. It’s not me harassing him. All he’s doing is wearing a bandanna, which you’re not allowed to do on campus, OK? Don’t wear a bandanna, that’s it.”
He tells the crowd that as soon as the student takes off the bandanna, the teen would not be in trouble with the officers.
The student doesn’t remove the bandanna.
“Are you sure?,” the student responds to the officer. “You said I broke the law, so I thought I was in trouble with you.”
Teachers could be heard telling students to return to class while the teen argued with the officer about whether he broke the law. The teen tries to walk away, telling the officer that he needs to go to class.
At one point, the officer puts his hand on the student’s arm and the student brushes it off. Another officer then enters the video.
The officers held the teen’s arms trying to escort him off campus. The teen starts to laugh before a struggle ensues when the officers try to take the teen’s backpack off of him.
A student can be heard saying, “They are harassing this boy at school.”
The officers handcuff the student and the video ends.
The videos were taken Aug. 10. One has been viewed more than 400,000 times.
In response, school Principal Angela Chomokos emailed a letter to families.
In the letter, she said an administrator asked the teen to remove the bandanna. After he refused, a DARE officer and two officers with the Apache Junction Police Department got involved.
“The refusal to respond to a reasonable request escalated to a point where some students were confusing the wearing of the bandanna with defiance and disorderly behavior,” she said. “This particular situation became escalated when students posted videos on social media sites.”
The school’s dress code does not mention bandannas. When The Arizona Republic asked for clarification about the alleged violation, the district declined to comment, saying it could not discuss matters involving students.
Apache Junction spokesman Al Bravo provided an emailed summary of the incident on behalf of the involved police officers.
He said an Apache Junction Police Department DARE officer was called by school staff to “assist with a disruptive student.”
“The officer attempted to defuse the situation — the student was wearing a head band and was requested to remove it per school policy. The student refused and challenged the officer, becoming more disruptive, and then was taken into custody as he continued to be noncompliant abusive,” according to the summary.
Bravo said that an additional officer responded to the school as more students gathered and three more students were arrested on suspicion of disrupting an educational institution, disorderly conduct and drug paraphernalia.
All four students will be referred to the Pinal County Juvenile Court system.
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