Most school districts have rules about how students’ clothing shouldn’t be revealing, or sex-related, or suggestive of “gang affiliation.” No surprise there. But the dress code for Hays Middle School in Kansas specifically bans references to “Satanism.”
Similar language is used in the district’s middle and elementary school handbooks. (The high school doesn’t have the same explicit ban.)
What exactly is the fear regarding “Satanism”? If the word is meant to be synonymous with evil, it’s a huge leap, especially when an argument could be made that Satanists are a religious minority no different from other ones.
On Monday night, during a meeting of the Hays USD 489 Board of Education, parent Mary Turner, who has three kids in the district, made exactly that point. She’s a member of The Satanic Temple, she said, and there shouldn’t be any reason for her kids to be punished for wearing clothing promoting their beliefs.
“I raise my children according to the seven [tenets] of satanism, and while children of other faiths can wear clothing that declares their family’s religion,” she said, “my family’s faith is specifically called out and banned in the school handbook dress code.
“Your own non-discrimination policies state that you do not discriminate against students based on religion. Your own mission says every student in every classroom every day,” Turner said.
The Satanic Temple has been a federally recognized church for many years, Turner said.
“Banning Satanic students from wearing clothing that declares their faith while allowing students of all other faiths to wear similar clothing is an act of discrimination,” she said.
“I am here to ask that the school board remove satanism from their dress code policy and they no longer blacklist my family’s faith and the faith of other families here in Hays as distracting, unsafe or offensive,” Turner said.
Later in the meeting, the board discussed the issue and it became clear some of the members just hadn’t considered the implications of that statement:
“It is interesting on the previous page, we have a non-discrimination statement,” [board member Meagan] Zampieri-Lillpopp said. “We have it up on our wall that we value diversity and we value inclusion and then we specifically say the name of one religion in the no list.
“I would challenge someone to put their own religion in that space and see how it feels,” she said.
Another board member suggested a simpler statement that focused on “disruptive” clothing rather than listing out specific examples.
The end result of their discussion? The board agreed to have the administration rework the dress code. A modified version will be discussed at an upcoming retreat in two weeks just before the start of the new school year.
Which means a Satanist spoke out against religious discrimination that almost certainly existed due to pro-Christian bias. Then, within a matter of hours, the change she sought was put into action.
It’s exactly how these board meetings ought to work, and yet, it feels like a major victory.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened either. Last October, the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania made a very similar change to a dress code that banned anything “Satanic in nature.” That only happened because a local Satanist urged the school board to make that change. A lot of citizens were furious, thinking the change was akin to allowing Nazi symbols on kids’ shirts… but their ignorance was no excuse for the board to continue a misguided policy.
And now kids will be able to wear Satanic clothing in Hays, Kansas as well.