A Pinellas County student got into trouble on the last day of school. His mother says it's because he had on makeup and wouldn't take it off. She's upset with the school district and has started a petition that has thousands of signatures.
Fourteen-year-old Chris Martin wore black eye shadow and black eyeliner to school. His mother, Katelynn Martin, did his makeup for him that morning, adding black lipstick also. She says he had worn makeup before, but never to school.
"When he asked, 'mom, can you do my makeup for school?' I didn't have a problem with it," said Katelynn. "I didn't think it would be a problem."
Katelynn says before first period at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg, her son got called to the office.
"He was told that he needed to wash his face," Katelynn said.
She says this is what the principal told her before she took her son home.
"He indicated that makeup for boys was unnecessary and that it was a distraction," Katelynn said.
Chris' mother says her son has been intensely bullied at school for years and gone through severe depression. He's being raised by his biological mother and her lesbian partner, but Katelynn says this is not about that.
"This is about all of the other kids that were in his school that were bullied and were made to feel they were not welcome," said Katelynn, who feels Meadowlawn school officials have done nothing to stop the bullying.
Pinellas Schools Spokeswoman Melanie Parra told FOX 13 "there's more to the story," but the district "can't legally discuss disciplinary matters related to a specific student."
Chris' mom started the petition on moveon.org to urge the school district to be more inclusive. Nearly 9,000 people nationwide had signed it as of Wednesday evening.
"I think this is a great opportunity for them to make some changes to how they institute tolerance training within the administration and within the faculty," Katelynn said.
Parra didn't get back to FOX 13 Wednesday with answers to questions about sensitivity training for staff and faculty members in Pinellas schools. The district's dress code policy does not specifically state anything about makeup for girls or boys.
Chris didn't feel comfortable talking about the controversy on camera, but he did provide a written statement to FOX 13:
"The Administrator that saw me in the hall going to my first class said that I couldn't wear makeup and my t-shirt to class. I've worn the shirt a whole bunch of times and no one ever said anything about it before. When they told me to take my makeup off I said no. She (the Admin) laughed. I went to the office to call my family, and they had me sit there and wait. I was upset because they wouldn't let me keep my makeup on, and I didn't think it was fair that I had to take it off so my family took me home.
The petition is something we put together as a family, and I think it's great and well thought out. I didn't think that there were so many people who cared about kids like me, and I'm really happy to see so many people who want to help make things better. I want to make a difference for kids like me.
When people ask me what message I have for other kids, I want to tell them to stay strong and don't give up."