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Teen Who Wore Kilt Gets School Apology

School officials have apologized to a teenager who was ordered to change clothes after he wore a kilt to a school dance.

Jackson High School senior Nathan Warmack received a letter Monday from Superintendent Ron Anderson, who apologized for "the fact that he was humiliated and not permitted to wear his kilt" to the dance.

Anderson also promised to train staff in properly interpreting the dress code.

Warmack, 18, said his actions helped fight discrimination.

"It's just one of the walls that needs to be broken down, but I feel I helped a lot," he said.

Warmack wore a kilt to a dance on Nov. 5 with a dress shirt and tie as a way to honor his Scottish heritage. The principal told Warmack to change into pants. The decision sparked an Internet petition and angered Scottish organizations that insisted the student's outfit was appropriate.

More than 1,600 people have signed the petition seeking an apology for the high school senior.

"It's a kilt. It's going to turn heads, but I never believed it would have become what it is," Warmack said last month when the controversy started.

Other schools around the country also have wrestled with the issue. A principal in Victoria, Texas, ordered two boys into "more appropriate" attire when they wore kilts to school in 1992, saying: "I know kilts. Those weren't kilts and the boys aren't Scots."

In 1993, a student in Fayette County, Ga., was not allowed to enter his prom at McIntosh High School because he showed up in a kilt and refused to change clothes.

And while they weren't trying to dress in kilts, a few boys were allowed to wear skirts to class at Franklin Community High School in Indiana in 1997, when a superintendent said different people express themselves in different ways.

Warmack, a defensive lineman on the football team, lives in Jackson, a growing, largely middle-class city of about 14,000 people about 110 miles from St. Louis.

He got interested in his family's Scottish ties after seeing Mel Gibson's 1995 movie "Braveheart," about William Wallace's battle to overthrow English rule in 13th century Scotland. Warmack reads books about Scotland and visits Web sites to learn more about his family's genealogy.

He bought a kilt off the Internet to wear to his school's formal "Silver Arrow" dance in November. Warmack said he showed it to a vice principal before the dance, who joked he'd better wear something underneath it, and Warmack assured him he would.

Warmack's parents, Terry and Paula, helped him piece together the rest of his outfit, a white shirt and black tie with white socks and black boots.

"We knew it wasn't the formal regalia," his father said. "We wanted it to be acceptable for the occasion."

After Nathan Warmack and his date posed for pictures, principal Rick McClard, who had not previously seen the kilt, told the student he had to go change. Warmack refused a few times and said the outfit was recognizing his heritage.

Warmack alleges McClard told him: "Well, this is my dance, and I'm not going to have students coming into it looking like clowns." McClard later said he had no recollection of saying that, Warmack's dad said. The principal did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The school district's superintendent, Ron Anderson, said McClard has the authority under the district's dress code policy to judge appropriate dress for extracurricular activities, including dances.

"It's mainly to protect from the possibility of a disruption or something that could be viewed as a disruption," Anderson said.

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