Red sock raises gang concern at school

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A 7th grader at Richmond's Elkhardt Middle gets in trouble for wearing what the principal suspected was a gang symbol. That gang-related clothing was school issued.

"I was flabbergasted. I was very surprised. I didn't think because you wore a red sock that you would be accused of being a blood or something," said Albert Marion.

12-year-old Albert Marion was wearing one red sock. That one red sock pulled up caught the principal's eye.

"He said 'why are you wearing one red sock?' I said because I wanted to. He said I have to take it off. I refused to take it off, because I'm not hurting nobody so why should I take it off? And that's when I got in trouble. He told me to go in the classroom," said Albert.

Albert and his mom reject the negative labeling. They say it's hurtful and embarrassing that Albert was called out in front of everyone.

"The principal told his teacher if he moves or if he tries to leave the classroom, to call security on him," said Maya Marion.

His mom says Albert may have dressed oddly, but he's on the honor roll, captain of his baseball team, plays football and now, he's despondent and doesn't want to be in class.

The red sock is part of his baseball uniform given to him, the team's M.V.P. by Richmond's athletic department.

''There's no record of violence or anything. Why did he have to go to this extreme to call you out? When you could have just called me and said, 'you know, I saw the sock thing and I was concerned.' It could have been a conversation that Albert never knew about," said Marion.

Here's the school's reasoning explained to me by a spokesperson. The staff is trained to discern if a student is dressed for class or dressed for violence through an anti-gang program called Grip. Their goal is to keep school grounds neutral.

Gang-related symbols are banned, certain colors, and we've noticed a continuous effort by the city to paint over gang related graffiti that frequently shows up on a fence near the school on Elkhardt Road.

"I'm very close to the children. That's the furthest thing on their mind, being in a gang, and being violent. They're just loveable kids," said Marion.

A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools released this statement, saying in this case, "the student was questioned about his attire because it created a distraction among students and staff within the school building."

I'm also told the staff does regret that they didn't call his mom first. Albert has permission to transfer to another school, but his mom will have to provide transportation, and that's a problem for her.

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