A Texas school district has adopted a new gender-neutral dress code after making national headlines in December for suspending an openly gay male student who wore nail polish to school.
The Clyde Consolidated Independent School District’s policy for the 2021-2022 school year doesn’t distinguish between “girls” and “boys,” according to NBC affiliate KRBC-TV in nearby Abilene. Instead, the dress code provides guidelines for all students, and it no longer prohibits boys from wearing nail polish or makeup.
Trevor Wilkinson, a senior, said he received in-school suspension when he returned from Thanksgiving break wearing nail polish.
He said the school’s principal and vice principal told him he could remain in suspension, remove the polish or go to virtual learning, NBC News reported in December. He told them that he wasn’t going to remove the nail polish, so he would stay in suspension.
At the time, Wilkinson said the district’s dress code was discriminatory.
"It's really sad to me because I feel like it's 2020 and we should be progressing and not taking steps back," he said in December. "And it makes me really sad because I know that there are other people who feel like this and feel like they can't express themselves and that they never will be able to because of people like this, who are not open-minded enough to see another perspective."
Wilkinson started a Change.org petition shortly after being suspended titled “Allow males to wear nail polish,” which received more than 400,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
“I am a gay male and I’m beyond proud,” he wrote on Change.org. “This is unjust and not okay. Help me show that it is okay to express yourself and that the identity that society wants to normalize is not okay.”
The district did not comment on Wilkinson’s suspension, but Superintendent Ken Berry said in a statement at the time, “The District will conduct a thorough review of its dress code when it performs its annual review of the Student Handbook, and, until that time, the District will assure that no student is treated in a discriminatory or inequitable manner,” according to KRBC-TV.
Two weeks after his suspension, Wilkinson addressed the school board at a meeting in December, noting that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas had sent a letter to more than 400 Texas school districts — including Clyde’s — just two months prior “and gave them a heads up that some of their policies were deemed discriminatory.”
“Why is it against dress code for a man to be comfortable with his masculinity and defy the gender norms that society has imposed on us,” he told the school board. “Better yet, in what way is it harmful for me to wear nail polish?”
The board created the new dress code policy after months of discussion among staff members, administrators, parents and students, KRBC-TV reported. It was unanimously approved by the district school board Monday.
Wilkinson told KRBC-TV he’s proud of the district for taking “steps in the right direction.”
“People are more comfortable at school,” he said. “I think that I will always look back on this experience and know that I did the right thing.”