Student says he was suspended for wearing heels

Published: Mar. 1, 2012 at 9:56 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2012 at 11:40 PM EST
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CHARLES CITY COUNTY, VA (WWBT) – A 17-year-old Charles City County student says he was kicked out of school for being gay and wearing high heels. The principal isn't talking but the superintendent is investigating.

The student was ordered to take off the high heels because he was disrupting the school. Asante Cotman challenged his principal and got suspended. NBC12 talked with him, on day one, of his 3-day suspension.

"I wore this jacket right here and my white shirt and my scarf and a pair of cargo pants and the heels. I didn't see how it was bothering anyone. I wasn't revealing nothing," Asante showed us.

Beige stilettos ignited animosity between the high school junior and his principal. Asante Cotman says he's the only openly gay male student at Charles City High. The spike heels were the crescendo, the boiling point for both.

ASANTE: "She's talking to me in a manner, like, belittling me. 'Oh, you shouldn't come back here. Oh, we would be glad if you didn't come back here. Everybody would be happy.' That comment really got to me. I was almost done."
DIANE WALKER: "What do you mean almost done?"
ASANTE: "I feel like I was about to kill myself. I was almost done."

Asante refused to take off the heels and the principal called him out of every class.

"She said I was being disrespectful because she told me to take them off and I didn't take them off. And she called me again because I didn't take them off. I don't understand disrupting the class, because nobody was talking about it. Everybody was doing their work. People have seen me wear heels before. People see me with a pocketbook every day," Asante said.

He put on slippers when the principal threatened to call police.

NBC12 went to the school but Principal Stephannie Crutchfield wouldn't discuss it. She said she couldn't. I walked to the adjacent school and found Superintendent Dr. Janet Crawley.

CRAWLEY: "I want Asante to know that we want him to be comfortable. We want him to enjoy his school environment and we're going to look out for his rights just like we look out for the rights of any child here."    
DIANE: "Are those heels violating the handbook?"
CRAWLEY: "I cannot honestly tell you what it says about heels. But we do have rules about shoes you wear that's going to cause you to injure yourself. "

Asante says female students wear high heels and the slippers they demanded he wear violate the student dress code because of the open heel.  He believes he's being punished for his sexual orientation.

"They suspended me for being gay," he said. "I'm missing a lot of classes. I'm missing classes that I need to graduate."

School officials met with Asante and his mom and asked them to stop the story. But he believes the principal went too far and says, nothing has been offered to end the suspension. Asante is scheduled to return to school Monday.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.