LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Starting out a new school year can be tough for kids. For one little girl, school outfits have helped ease those challenges. That’s why John Lillis said he made sure his 6-year-old daughter was back to school ready.
“Grandma picked out this dress,” he said, holding up a little sundress.
His daughter is in first grade at Harriet Treem elementary. While the start of school is stressful every year, this year was even more difficult for the Lillis family.
“Having autism is hard enough for her to fit in,” Lillis said. “And, this year, they are mainstreaming her.”
As a child with special needs, Lillis said his daughter meticulously picks out clothing. He called her a perfectionist when it comes to her outfits and said her clothing choices help her start conversations with other kids.
“A kid will go up to [my daughter] and say, ‘Hey, I like your dress,'” he said. “Sometimes, her clothes help her talk to kids.”
On Wednesday morning, Lillis’ daughter was picking out her outfits like she usually does, and she selected a brand new sundress her grandmother helped get her for the start of school. The family did not realize until after the school day there had been a problem with her selection.
“They pulled her out of class, and they took her to the office. You should not be doing that to any kid and especially a special needs kid. She is sensitive.”
Lillis said his daughter came home off the bus crying and had gym clothes over her dress.
“My daughter said ‘They made me look ugly,'” Lillis said. “And, I said, ‘No, they didn’t. You are not ugly. You will never be ugly. You are beautiful.'”
The following day, the Lillis family said getting their child ready for school was nerve wracking.
“It’s hard for her because she stands out as it is, and this made her stand out even more,” Lillis said.
School district staff said they did not want to comment on specific cases but said parents are sent dress code guidelines during the first weeks of school. The Lillis family said that’s not true and they had no idea the dress was against dress code because they’ve never seen any guidelines.
They said they are speaking out in hopes the district will not do this to any other child, especially one with special needs. They also said the school should have called them and they would have happily brought their child a change of clothes.