Not every news story is about a major scientific discovery or national leader – some can begin in our schools. A fourth-grade student made headlines after he was teased over a homemade football t-shirt.
An elementary school in Florida recently held a “college colors” day where students were asked to dress in support of their favorite college sports teams. The unnamed fourth-grader was excited to express his support for the Tennessee Volunteers football team, which plays for the University of Tennessee. Unfortunately, he didn’t own any official clothes displaying the team’s logo. The student “made” his own shirt by handwriting “UT” on a sheet of paper and pinning it to an orange t-shirt to represent the team colors. The boy wore the shirt until some fellow students made fun of the design during lunch, an episode that ended in tears.
In the age of social media, however, these matters don’t always end immediately. A teacher at the school, Laura Snyder, described the event on Facebook, saying:
“After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on his desk and was crying. Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn’t even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt. He was DEVASTATED.”
Thanks to his teacher’s post, the tale went viral. The story caught the attention of the University of Tennessee itself. UT decided to put the student’s design on an official team shirt. Orders for the garment have reached over 50,000. The proceeds from the shirt will be donated to STOMP Out Bullying, a group that seeks to raise awareness about bullying. The university also sent the student a care package full of UT merchandise and offered a four-year scholarship starting in the year 2028, if he wants to attend the college.
In Pennsylvania, Winding Creek Elementary School responded to the story by asking students to wear orange for one day as a message against bullying. School principal Chad Runkle told the pupils to make something different if they didn’t own any suitable clothes. “That was my message to the kids,” Runkle said. “You may not have orange at home, and that’s cool because this kid didn’t have what he was supposed to have … the whole idea of not having the thing you’re supposed to have resonates with kids because that happens with our kids all the time.”
Runkle also praised the University of Tennessee over its response to the situation. “What a gracious, awesome stance,” he said. “A big, giant university that didn’t have to do anything about it other than maybe they could have sent him a T-shirt or something — they went above and beyond.”