http://heritage.scotsman.com/traditions ... rmat=print
Tue 6 Dec 2005
THE NICKNAME for Missouri is the "Show Me State", which is to mean that people from America's conservative heartland are stalwart, a bit stubborn and have a devotion to common sense. The stalwart and stubborn aspects of the state moniker might explain what happened when a school principal confronted one of his students who was dressed in a kilt.
Nathan Warmack is a popular student at Jackson High School. The 18-year-old is an outstanding defensive lineman on the American football team and - at 6ft, 4in and 250lbs - you can't miss him when he walks along the school corridors.
Unintentionally, Nate has become even more recognisable in recent weeks. He attended the school's "Silver Arrow" dance in November dressed in a red kilt, the colours of his family clan. Once photos of Nate and his girlfriend were taken to mark the special occasion, the young man was told he couldn't join his fellow students inside because the kilt would cause a distraction.
Richard McClard, the Jackson High School principal, told Nate that he had to change into trousers or he wouldn't be permitted to attend. Nate, after a long discussion, agreed to change his clothes but, as his father says, the damage and embarrassment was already done.
"We thought it would be a proper dress and it would honour his heritage," says Terry Warmack. "The football players [also] thought it was really cool."
When Nate asked McClard, who has been with the district for 12 years, why he couldn't attend the dance wearing his kilt, Warmack was stunned by what his son claimed he was told.
"You can honour your heritage in Scotland," McClard is said to have told Nate, "but you can't go in here looking like a clown. This is considered proper attire in Scotland, but it's not considered proper attire in my school."
McClard told a local television station that he doesn't remember using those words, telling the student that "it wasn't appropriate and I wouldn't allow it." The principal also told the station that he believes Nate was "trying to make a statement and it wasn't the right time or place to make it."
Attempts to verify McClard's comments and to clarify the school's policy were unsuccessful. Phone calls and e-mail to the principal and to the superintendent of the Jackson R-II School District, of which the high school is a member, were not returned.
Warmack explains that family members have been researching their heritage for at least four years and only recently uncovered a fascinating mystery behind their name. He says his ancestors were originally named MacRaw (Macraw), from the Clan MacRae, and that they were forced to change their name to Warmack when fleeing to America via England, apparently following the failed Jacobite uprising. (The surname Warmack is derived from the last three letters of MacRaw spelled backwards and the first three letters, "Mac", with the "k" added years later.)
Each passing kernel of information from his family's research gave Nate further excitement about his heritage. He saved up enough money and bought a traditional red Clan MacRae tartan to wear to special events.
"We thought it would be a proper dress and it would honour his heritage," the older Warmack says. "He was very proud."
Owning up to a bit of Scottish fiery blood in him, Warmack is seeking to change the school policy and to educate the educators. He calls it a "David vs. Goliath battle" but wishes to make matters right. The father is expecting to be asked to attend a school board meeting this month to address the issue.
"This has to do with school policy, not my son," he says. "It's not a situation that Nate had to wear a kilt to a dance, but he darn sure should have a right to."
When informed of the incident, a spokesperson for the Scottish Executive, not wishing to comment on the specifics, would say: "Scotland is proud of the kilt - an important and iconic symbol of our country. It is worn by thousands of people in Scotland and across the world, both casually and more formally, on special occasions such as weddings, parties, proms and graduations."
Meantime, a battle cry has been raised by a tight-knit group of Americans with Scottish ancestry. Members of the Clan Gunn have created an online petition that effectively seeks a change in the school's policy and asks for an apology from McClard.
"This is clearly a discriminatory action based on disrespect for Nathan's completely appropriate pride in his personal heritage," says Beth Gardner, a Texas-based member of Clan Gunn who helped organise the petition.
On the web
More than 450 people have signed the petition since it went online on 19 November. Gardner soon plans to submit a printed version of the petition to the school, school board and local media.
"It is past time for those of us who share in the pride of our Celtic heritage to raise our voices and stand our ground to say 'enough!'," Gardner cries. "We have the same rights as anyone else to show pride in our heritage."
The father, who is considering seeking legal assistance, hopes to have a policy change in effect by the time students attend their senior prom in May but recognises it will be a difficult fight: "I really don't know what's going to happen. It's going to take a higher power."
In addition to being stalwart and stubborn, the last trait of Show Me State residents is said to be a devotion to common sense, perhaps the key element missing from this incident. But what is most ironic about the story is that the name McClard – the school principal – has deep ancestral roots to a certain country. Scotland.