GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — A throng of students jostled at Gavin Simonetti, a fellow middle schooler at Laredo Middle School, but none were pulled into the office of an administrator amid the incident last Friday.
Simonetti alone was called into the dean's office in the dress he wore that day. Simonetti didn't voluntarily choose to wear the dress; he donned it over his own clothes after losing a dare to his friends.
The spectacle of a young man in a dress led to mocking and more from fellow classmates.
"Yeah there was a group around me, they were laughing at it year, but as soon as we got in school it pretty much ended," Simonetti said.
Administrators described the encircling group of students differently, saying it prompted cause for concern.
"He was surrounded by between 30 and 40 other students who were yelling, pushing and shoving around him," Tustin Amole, the director of communications for the Cherry Creek School District, wrote in a release.
The district said for fear of the safety of "all those present," the school's dean called Simonetti into her office.
"She said that it's inappropriate," Simonetti said of his conversation with the dean, before she instructed him to take the dress off.
Gavin Simonetti provided this photo to demonstrate students should be able to express themselves without fear, he said.
Gavin's mother Victoria Mancinelli took issue with that directive.
"This could have potentially happened to a kid that was sensitive to the issue and they had no idea at all, and it oculd have turned ugly for a different student," Mancinelli said. "The school that I work at has trans kids everywhere and it's not an issue and no one bats an eye."
Mancinelli advocated for letting students be who they are, although she admitted her son doesn't typically wear dresses.
Cherry Creek School District representatives explained they recognize the right of students to express themselves but administrators can make decisions for the benefit of school-wide focus.
"The Board recognizes that students have a right to express themselves through dress and personal appearance; however, students shall not wear apparel that is deemed disruptive or potentially disruptive to the classroom environment or to the maintenance of a safe and orderly school," reads the school's education policy.
Amole said the school did inform Simonetti he could wear a dress to school if he wishes in the future if it does not cause disruption or safety concerns.
Simonetti said he hopes those who wished to further express themselves at school can do so, even if he wore a dress at the request of a dare.
"I'm hoping that it tells them that they don't have to be scared to be who they want to be. I don't want them to feel terrified in their own school to express who they are and how they feel," Simonetti said.