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Why did a teacher take away child's shirt with Greek sorority letters?

The t-shirt, worn by a 7-year-old student, referenced Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically African American sorority.
Why did a teacher take away child's shirt with Greek sorority letters?
Posted at 10:34 AM, Oct 07, 2023

The principal at McGavock Elementary School in Nashville is apologizing after a staff member at the school confiscated a shirt that a second grader was wearing.

The t-shirt, worn by 7-year-old Peyton Tiger, spelled out "AKA 1908" in pink and green rhinestones across the front — a reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., an historically African American sorority.

"I liked the shirt I was wearing, a lot!" Peyton told Scripps News Nashville.

So why did the teacher take away Peyton's t-shirt, replacing it with a new one she arrived home in?

According to an email the teacher sent to Chloe Smith, Peyton's mom, the teacher took away the shirt because the seven-year-old was not a member of the sorority.

"Today, I noticed Peyton wearing an AKA shirt. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), which is a service organization for college trained and educated women," the teacher wrote. "AKA branded items are trademarked and reserved for members only. Thus, I had to give her a new shirt and take the AKA shirt. The new shirt she received is clean and there is no need to give it back."

Peyton's mom said her daughter liked the shirt because of its colors.

"It was a child's shirt," Smith said. "For her, it was a pink and green rhinestone shirt that matched her pants."

Peyton's mom says she got the shirt as a hand-me-down from one of her friends.

But did the issue of race play a part in the controversy of the AKA-branded shirt at the school?

While there are some white members of historically Black fraternities and sororities, the vast majority of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Sorority's members are Black. Peyton and her mom are white.

Those who are members of Greek-letter organizations say it's frowned upon when others who haven't gone through the pledge process wear the Greek letters of a sorority or fraternity, which may also explain why the staff member took the shirt from the student.

Last week, a viral post on X showed a white substitute teacher wearing the AKA jacket of a Black teacher. The post and subsequent reactions to it have been viewed more than 17 million times.

Minutes after Scripps News Nashville's interview with Peyton, her mom told us the school principal personally returned the confiscated shirt.

Scripps News Nashville reached out to Metro Public Schools who told us:

Once informed of the incident, the Principal immediately began an investigation. While the shirt was not in accordance with the school’s dress code due to having writing, the appropriate course of action would have been to refer the matter to the school administration and not take the shirt from the student. There is no policy or dress code specific to sorority branded clothing.

The Principal returned the clothing to the student’s home and apologized on behalf of the school. The school will follow the district’s employee relations process and counsel the staff member on appropriate conduct in these regards.

NewsChannel 5 has also reached out to both the local chapter and national office of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. for any context either can provide. Neither group has immediately responded.

This story was originally published by Jason Lamb at Scripps News Nashville.

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