The town of Hempstead, N.Y., has a message for Gwinnett County administrators: Before you target a student wearing a Hempstead shirt, look at a map.
Terrell Jones, a student in Gwinnett County’s Grayson High School, was weeded out of a classroom by a school administrator because he wore a shirt that read: “Hempstead, NY 516,” a reference to the Long Island town and its telephone area code.
According to Jones’ family, which moved from Hempstead to the Atlanta suburb, the school thought the shirt referred to marijuana. Jones wasn’t allowed to return to class until he persuaded school officials to search the Internet for the town name.
The town’s Web site says the area may have been named for Hemel-Hempstead, England. Another theory cites the Dutch city of Heemstede, because settlers had come years earlier from the Netherlands.
In any case, “before they would jump to any conclusions, they should be sure of what they’re talking about,” town spokeswoman Susie Trenkle said of the Georgia officials.
Hempstead is the nation’s largest township, with 759,000 residents spread across 22 villages and more than 142 square miles, she said.
The student’s father, James Jones, said he wants an apology for Monday’s incident. School district officials did not return a call for comment.
Terrell Jones says he will keep wearing the shirt to school.