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 Michael Cameron, a senior at Greenbrier High School, was suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt on Coke Day. Coca-Cola is a corporate sponsor of the school and the entire student body gathered in the parking lot to spell out Coke for a photo.

Pepsi shirt incident gains world notice

Web posted March 26, 1998

  Video courtesy WRDW-TV

By Emily Sollie
Columbia County Bureau

The Pepsi-shirt-on-Coke-Day incident at Greenbrier High School has gone international.

Greenbrier Principal Gloria Hamilton spent most of her day trying to explain to local, national and international media why the 19-year-old student was given a day of in-house suspension for wearing a Pepsi shirt on Coke Education Day last Friday.

Mike Cameron, who opted to take a day of out-of-school suspension instead on Wednesday, is in the midst of his 15 minutes of fame.

Pepsico spokesman Brad Shaw said Wednesday the corporation plans to give him a supply of Pepsi shirts and hats.

``We put a package in overnight mail,'' Mr. Shaw said. ``It should be there tomorrow.''

Ms. Hamilton fielded calls Wednesday from media such as The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, ABC, NBC and the British Broadcasting Corp. Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh discussed the incident on his broadcast Wednesday afternoon.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a school business partner with the Columbia County school system, sponsored a contest among the four county high schools for the most creativity in distributing Coke cards -- a promotional item offering discounts at several area businesses. The most creative school would receive $500 from the local Coca-Cola branch.

photo: metro

 Within a day, the story about Mike Cameron's suspension reached national news wires and has even spawned a website.

A similar contest at the national level has a prize of $10,000, and Greenbrier ``just decided to go for the whole enchilada, so to speak,'' said Superintendent Tom Dohrmann. Coca-Cola executives were invited to the school to serve as guest speakers in various classes, and the entire student body posed for a photograph, spelling out the word Coke.

According to Mrs. Hamilton, Mr. Cameron had the Pepsi logo on his shirt covered until the photo was taken. Mr. Cameron, though, says the Pepsi shirt had been in plain view since his arrival at school Friday morning.

``That's just the kind of person I am,'' he said. ``I don't like to follow the trends.''

Dr. Dohrmann said he changed into a Coke shirt later in the day, but no teachers or administrators had reprimanded him for wearing the Pepsi shirt.

It wasn't until the last period of the day that he was taken to the principal's office, he said.

``We have set expectations as far as behavior,'' Mrs. Hamilton said Wednesday, ``And 99 percent of the time that behavior reaches those expectations. I do think he thought it was funny, but I think it was premeditated, deliberate and deceptive, and it was one day and it's over with.''

Dr. Dohrmann said he supported Mrs. Hamilton's decision. In addition to Mr. Cameron's punishment, a second student involved served a day of in-house suspension Monday, according to the principal.

``The principal notified me that she had disciplined a kid for disrupting the educational environment on Friday ... It had nothing to do with First Amendment, nothing to do with Pepsi Cola,'' Dr. Dohrmann said.

``In fact, if Pepsi Cola came out with something like this, where the entire student body would benefit, we would welcome it,'' he said.

``Coca-Cola is only one of over 100 business partners we have in Columbia County. I'd love it if Pepsi would be a business partner.''

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