WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – A West Orange County High School student was told to remove his hooded sweatshirts by school staff Monday because the items were “gang-related,” however, the student and man behind the local clothing line say those gang ties don’t exist.
On Monday, West Orange High School student Maine Jefferson wore his “Global not Local” sweatshirt like he has plenty of times. He also said other students have previously worn the brand to school.
However, on this day a school staff member told him to take it off.
“He came up to me and gave me a warning and said it’s ‘gang-related’ and ‘Don’t wear it to school again,’” Jefferson said.
Jefferson’s mother is adamant she would not allow her son to wear anything with gang ties.
“I wouldn’t even wear it. I would never buy anything that’s gang-related. I try to teach my kids the best,” Chequtta James said.
In a statement to News 6, Orange County School District officials said they believed the brand was tied to a gang based on information from law enforcement.
“In an effort to maintain a safe learning environment, the district routinely works with law enforcement agencies to actively monitor activities that could possibly impact student safety,” the statement said. “The district has a dress code policy by which students must abide by and school administration may exercise discretion to expand upon the minimum dress code outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.”
A spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said they do not release whether someone is or is not a documented gang member to the public.
“Any information like that would be intelligence information and not public information,” the Sheriff’s Office spokesperson wrote in an email.
The spokesperson did say “Global not Local” is not the name of a known gang in Orange County.
When reached for comment the Winter Garden Police Department referred all questions to the Orange County School District.
Dell Coates, a West Orange High School alumnus, is the local business owner behind the brand, “Global not Local.” He prides himself on giving back to his community and said the brand was meant to motivate people, especially kids of color.
“To think on a bigger scale,” Coates said. “To believe in yourself to know there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Coates denies any ties to gangs and wants answers from the school.
He feels targeted by the allegations.
“It just hurts to see I couldn’t get (any) support from them,” Coates said. “For them to say I was a gang-related organization, that’s what hurt the most because that’s not my reputation.”