Bullied for homemade shirt, Florida boy’s design becomes official merch

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A Florida student bullied for his handmade shirt marking support for the Tennessee Volunteers football team has sparked official University of Tennessee merchandise.

Teacher Laura Snyder posted the whole saga on Facebook on Wednesday of last week. Her school was set to take part in “college colors day,” she wrote.

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When I told my students about this day a week before, this particular child came to me and told me that he wanted to wear a University of Tennessee shirt, but he didn’t have one,” Snyder wrote. 

She said they decided he could sport an orange shirt to mark his pride in the Volunteers.

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“So when the day finally arrived, he was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt,” Snyder wrote. The unidentified boy “took it one step further to make his own label.” Photos on Snyder’s Facebook show what the homemade orange shirt looked like, with a U and T written on paper attached to the shirt.

But then the story takes an upsetting turn.

“After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on his desk and was crying,” Snyder wrote. 

“Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn’t even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt.”

The boy was “devastated,” she said. 

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“I know kids can be cruel, I am aware that it’s not the fanciest sign, BUT this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day.”

She wrote that she planned on getting him a University of Tennessee shirt and asked if anyone had connections to the school to “make it a little extra special for him.”

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Her post clearly reached the right people, because the next day she wrote an update, saying she was “so incredibly amazed” at the support expressed.

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“Because of this, my student will be receiving an awesome care package from the University of Tennessee” the next morning, she wrote. 

A day later, another update: the University of Tennessee “really outdid themselves,” Snyder wrote. The boy “proudly put on the jersey” and one of several hats included in the goodie box sent for him. 

“When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” she wrote. 

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The official campus store for the University of Tennessee tweeted out a link to the official merch inspired by this incident, saying some of the proceeds from each shirt sold would go to Stomp Out Bullying, a national anti-bullying organization. The shirts were in so much demand over the weekend, the website crashed. 

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The campus store also said that numerous university departments had “donated items for the student, teacher, and entire class.”

Snyder’s post drew close to 3,000 comments, with many admiring her support for her student and saying they would buy the shirt. Outlets such as ABC News and CNN covered the story.

Randy Boyd, the interim president of the University of Tennessee, tweeted he was “touched” to hear of the boy’s story and of his love for UT.

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In her Friday update on Facebook, Snyder gushed over how the experience has brought her students together.

“This experience is uniting my class even more than I could have imagined, and it was truly amazing to witness!! The Vols spirit was definitely felt In my classroom today! THANK YOU so much so all who have made this such a positive experience for my student, and also showing the rest of my class what it’s like to come together and be kind.”

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