At least a dozen students showed up to Lakeview Middle School in Battle Creek on Monday wearing blue or orange T-shirts to honor sixth-grader Caitlyn Jackson, who died Saturday after fighting leukemia for years. Blue was Caitlyn's favorite color and orange is worn to honor those like her with leukemia, and some of the shirts were from various benefits for Caitlyn over the years.
When students arrived at school, administrators asked them to change out of the shirts, turn them inside-out or tape over Caitlyn's name.
"They said that they really liked the shirts, but that it just triggered too much emotion for someone who was really close to her," 13-year-old student Alyssa Jaynes told the newspaper.
Students were allowed to make cards for the family, and students wearing blue and orange shirts without Caitlyn's name on them weren't asked to change, said Amy Jones, the school's finance director. Students who were asked to turn their shirts inside-out were told to keep Caitlyn's name "close to their heart."
Jones said the district decided Sunday to not allow the T-shirts in keeping with its crisis management plan, which bars permanent memorials on the belief that they can remind students of their grief and make it worse. Parents weren't informed of the decision.
"Certainly the intent of our decision was good," Jones said. "Probably the ramifications of our decision caused more disruption than if we had let kids wear the shirts in the first place."
Caitlyn's mother, Melinda Jackson, said she learned about the T-shirt ban while returning from the Ann Arbor hospital where her daughter died.
"That hurt me to the point that I didn't think I could be hurt anymore," said Jackson, who works for the district as a childcare provider.
The district changed its stance after students and parents complained. But on Facebook, some parents were calling for the ouster of those who initially decided to ban the shirts. The district superintendent was out of the country when that decision was made.
District officials met with Caitlyn's family on Monday and planned to review the policies that led to the initial ban.