Georgia school drops suspensions of Pepsi kids

Monday, March 30, 1998

EVANS, Ga. (AP) — School officials have expunged suspensions of two students who were punished for wearing Pepsi shirts to school on a day when Coca-Cola executives were visiting.

“The penalty didn’t fit the crime,” Columbia County Superintendent Tom Dohrmann said Friday.

“We still think the behavior was inappropriate and disruptive, however, we have decided that another method of discipline may have been more appropriate and we have decided to remove the suspensions from their records.”

Dohrmann said a principal-student conference on appropriate behavior would have been a better way to handle the situation involving seniors Mike Cameron, 19, and Dan Moxley, 17.

Coca-Cola officials came to the school last week as part of Greenbrier’s effort to win a $500 contest run by the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Augusta and a larger national contest with a $10,000 prize.

There was even a school picture in which Greenbrier students spelled out “Coke.”

So Cameron waited until just before the picture was taken to remove his outer shirt and reveal a blue-and-white-striped shirt with a Pepsi logo underneath. And Moxley turned his back during the picture so the red-white-and-blue logo on his Pepsi shirt would show up.

The two students received a one-day, in-house suspension for their prank, which school officials, including Principal Gloria Hamilton, called disruptive and rude.

Cameron served his suspension at home on Wednesday; Moxley was to serve his punishment in school in April.

The prank and punishment made national headlines. Dohrmann said the incident has been blown out of proportion.

“We support the students’ First Amendment right to wear the shirts, as long as it’s not disruptive. They’ve admitted that they did it as a prank,” Dohrmann said.

Cameron said Hamilton told him of the decision Friday afternoon.

“I was a little bit surprised. I didn’t think she’d give in,” he said. “I said, ‘Thanks, I hold you in high respect. You were just doing your job.’”

He said he had been invited to appear on NBC’s Today show and on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman this Friday. He leaves for New York on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the cola wars continued.

Not to be outdone, Pepsi said it would donate $500 to Greenbrier, which opened less than two years ago 10 miles northwest of Augusta.