by Jack Minor –
While the Greeley/Evans School District’s policy on banning certain numbers being displayed, including 18, which is the number of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, officials said the reasoning is actually based on experience.
The dress code for district schools prohibits team jerseys or belt buckles with the numbers 13, 14, 18, 31, 41 or 81. Students are also not permitted to wear red or blue belts, shoelaces, bandanas or solid red or blue shirts.
The purpose of the banned items has to do with their affiliation with local gangs. Members will often wear the colors or numbers to broadcast their affiliation with the particular gang and possibly intimidate others.
Obviously not everyone who wears a jersey with one of the numbers or the colors is a gang member, but students would be targeted for wearing the wrong number or clothing item.
The Greeley Tribune recently reported on how Konor Vanatta, an eight year old student at Monfort Elementary School, who was forced to change his shirt after wearing a Peyton Manning jersey with the number 18 to school.
The boy’s mother, Pam Vanetta, told the paper, “The policy of the district is ridiculous.”
However, John Gates, director of safety and security for the district, said the ban is not based on hypotheticals, but rather on real life examples.
“We used to have a large number of gang conflicts as a result of gang-related clothing. This caused us to change the dress code 4 years ago to ban solid red, solid blue and to ban the numbers 13, 14, 31, 41, 18 and 81,” Gates, who is a retired Greeley police officer and City Council member, said. “These numbers used to be worn frequently by students who were involved in the gang culture to display their colors and affiliation and to recruit.”
Gates said while the new rules have minimized the gang problem, they have not completely solved the issue.
“When the 98-99 percent of kids who are in school to learn are confronted with gang issues, it tends to cause a climate of fear and intimidation. We have also had incidents where kids that aren’t involved in gangs at all were bullied or assaulted as a result of offending an opposing gang by wearing the wrong color.”
He summed up the issue saying, “It’s all about student safety.”