COLUMBIA, SC — At least two Richland School District 1 high schools have banned camouflage from their campuses after warnings from police that a gang has adopted the pattern.
Dreher High School and Lower Richland High School principals used a district dress code rule that allows them to adopt campus-specific prohibitions on clothing styles, said Karen York, the school district’s spokeswoman. No camo pattern is allowed on clothes, accessories or book bags, York said.
“There is no district-wide policy or district-wide directive to other schools to prohibit camouflage,” she said.
Sheriff Leon Lott said camouflage has become the official color of a local gang, and he applauded the school principals for taking a proactive approach by banning the pattern. Lott declined to name the gang using camo to identify its members.
“Right now, the gangs are using camo like they used red, blue and black in the past,” Lott said.
Dreher High School parents received a voice memo Wednesday afternoon from Assistant Principal Roy Blake to remind them that Superintendent Percy Mack had asked that all camo patterns be banned from campuses. His voice message also reminded parents that other gang apparel, hats, tight pants and saggy pants also were banned.
“Please be reminded that camouflage of any type is now prohibited in high schools in Richland 1,” the voice memo said.
However, York said the Dreher voice message was incorrect in its suggestion that camo was banned on every high school in the district.
Dreher also sent out a reminder about the dress code change on its Twitter account.
A.C. Flora High School’s Twitter account issued a message Monday that said, “Just an early heads up. Anyone wearing camouflage to the football game this Friday night will not be allowed entry. Please spread the word.”
Flora plays Lower Richland in football on Friday night. However, camo has not been banned from Flora’s campus, York said.
Lott said he did not recommend the ban, but he had informed the superintendent about the gang’s switch to camouflage.
It’s important for schools to keep gang apparel off campuses to avoid fights, Lott said. One gang’s members may try to wear the color to show they control a school, which could lead to retaliation from another gang, he said.
“This way, the schools are going to control it,” Lott said.
The sheriff said there had not been any recent flare ups between rival gangs that might have led to the camouflage ban.
“We had a terrible summer, but we’ve been able to slow that down,” he said. “We haven’t had anything flare up now, but we’re being proactive.”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.