An Oklahoma kindergarten student who was told to turn his University of Michigan T-shirt inside-out while in school has become a hero for the team’s fans and has been invited to a Michigan game to be introduced at halftime.
Cooper Barton, 5, was wearing the “Go-Blue” tee that his uncle, who is in the military but takes classes at Michigan, to kindergarten last week. An eagle-eyed school staff member who knows and strictly adheres to the school’s dress code rules told Connor that he was in violation of the Oklahoma City Public Schools’ policy, and asked him to turn the shirt inside out.
“I was angry, my son felt a little embarrassed,” Cooper’s mother Shannon Barton told ABC News. “He didn’t understand why he had to turn his shirt inside-out.”
Shannon Barton said she and her husband contacted the school’s principal, who sent them information on the school’s policy on students wearing professional sports attire. Students are only allowed to wear apparel from Oklahoma universities.
Barton said that she and her husband also contacted the school board, and the two plan to attend a board meeting on Sept. 10. She says she sees a double standard.
“Our point was, why do you allow one and not the other? Every day kids are wearing [Oklahoma City] Thunder shirts, and no one ever makes them turn their shirt,” she said. Barton said her older son has worn Michigan gear to school several times without incident.
The story of what had happened to Cooper caught fire among Michigan fans, prompting University of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon to call the Barton family on Wednesday to invite them to a game at Ann Arbor’s stadium, popularly dubbed the “Big House.” Brandon offered to have Cooper introduced to the cheering masses as they face the University of Massachusetts on Sept. 15.
At a press conference Wednesday, Brandon presented a t-shirt for Cooper that even when turned inside out, still sports the Michigan logo.
“Everybody has been so great. The University of Michigan and the alumni association have been so generous and kind and supportive,” Barton said.
Now that Cooper’s story has caught some attention, officials in his school district say they are now evaluating the seven-year-old ban. The rule that allows students to only wear college gear from Oklahoma universities was developed in 2005 with the help of an Anti-Gang Task Force.
Karl Springer, the superintendent of the school district, released a statement saying that he believes the rule may be out-dated.
“This has presented an opportunity to review the current OKCPS District Dress Code Policy that has been in place since 2005 … As when any policy is questioned, OKCPS administration will review the policy to determine if changes need to be made,” Springer said.
Shannon Barton feels that it’s time for the district to take the rule off the books.
“What’s good for one should be good for all,” she told ABC News. “This is a military town, with Chesapeake Energy, the hospital —not everybody is from Oklahoma, so they should be allowed to wear what they like.”
As for her boy, Shannon says that Cooper is excited that his picture is being seen across the country. And what about the prospect of him applying to the University of Michigan and becoming a Wolverine once he finishes high school?
“I don’t think he has a choice,” she said.