1. News
  2. /
  3. Education

Teacher overwhelmed by outpouring of support for student bullied over hand-made Tennessee shirt

The care package, scholarship offer and university-sanctioned t-shirt were unexpected. But the high-fives, hugs and pats on the back meant even more.
A Florida fourth-grader was bullied by classmates over the Tennessee shirt he created for "college colors day" at his elementary school. [Facebook]
Published Sep. 16
Updated Sep. 16

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

The student didn’t have a University of Tennessee shirt of his own for “college colors day” at his Florida elementary school, so his teacher told him any orange shirt would do.

The fourth-grader went a step further, creating a handmade logo design that he pinned to the front of the shirt.

He was so excited about it, he couldn’t wait to show it to his teacher.

But after lunch, he returned to the classroom, put his head on his desk, and began to cry.

The same shirt that had brought him such pride earlier in the day had become the target of ridicule.

Girls at the lunch table next to his had made fun of his shirt.

“He was devastated,” his teacher, Laura Snyder, wrote in a Facebook post.

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

Snyder shared the student’s plight in the hope that someone with connections to the University of Tennessee might help her acquire an official UT shirt for the boy.

And did she ever get a response.

As of Monday morning, the post had more than 24,000 reactions, 6,000 comments and 11,000 shares.

The University of Tennessee sent a care package featuring notes and school gear the boy shared with his class: bracelets, water bottles, cooling towels.

Instead of ridicule, the boy received high-fives, hugs and pats on the back.

“This experience is uniting my class even more than I could have imagined,” Snyder wrote, “and it was truly amazing to witness!!”

But the care package was only the beginning.

The university’s website created a t-shirt featuring the boy’s design. More than 50,000 shirts were pre-sold, with proceeds going to benefit STOMP Out Bullying.

A University of Tennessee shirt using the design of a fourth-grader from Florida who was bullied by his classmates. (AP Photo/Steve Megargee) [STEVE MEGARGEE | AP]

“When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” Snyder wrote. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller, and I could tell his confidence grew.”

Snyder, a die-hard Florida State fan, made sure to order one for herself.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to wearing the shirt he designed,” she wrote. “It’ll be the one and only piece of orange clothing that this Seminoles fan will ever.”

On Thursday, school officials offered the boy a four-year scholarship beginning in the fall of 2028 if he meets admission requirements.

And on Saturday, Tennessee’s marching band wore the T-shirt based on the student’s design before the Vols’ game against Chattanooga.

Members of the Pride of the Southland band perform as they wear the University of Tennessee superfan shirt after designing his own UT shirt and wearing it to his school before an NCAA college football game against Chattanooga Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) [WADE PAYNE | AP]

The shirt even made an appearance on ESPN’s College Game Day.

Out of respect for the student and his family, Snyder wrote, she did not name the student or show a photo of him on her Facebook post.

She did promise to read all of the comments and share a few with him each day.

“By the looks of it, he will have enough to hear every day for the rest of this school year,” Snyder wrote. “That’s so awesome to me!!”

Like any good educator, Snyder turned the experience into a teaching moment.

“My student has definitely felt the love and support from people all over the world,” she wrote. “It has been such an awesome week with my class. We’ve had lots of discussions about being kind, and I’m really excited to see my students step up their acts of kindness.”


  1. FILE - In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 file photo, 6-year-old elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school's cafeteria in Paducah, Ky. Nearly a million students could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under a Trump administration proposal that's expected to reduce the number of people who get food stamps. In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis finding as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. ELLEN O'NAN  |  AP
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released details of an analysis that found that as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change.
  2. In this image from a Pinellas County school district video, former School Board member Lee Benjamin motions to someone he knows while sitting with family members during at 2013 ceremony to name the Northeast High School gymnasium in his honor. Mr. Benjamin was the school's first basketball coach in 1954 and later became Northeast's principal in a long career with Pinellas schools that included 14 years on the School Board. He died Wednesday at age 92. Pinellas County Schools
    A teacher, coach and principal at Northeast High, he rose to district administrator and served on the School Board. Mr. Benjamin died Wednesday at age 92.
  3. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is preparing its second round of recommendations for lawmakers.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle pieces together a skull that might have been Amelia Earhart's. SANDRA C. ROA  |  University of South Florida
    DNA from a skull found in 1940 could prove whether the famous aviator has been found.
  5. A Hernando County Sheriff's deputy talks to students in the cafeteria of Brooksville Elementary School in 2018. Earlier this month, the school district put forward a proposal to move away from a contract with the Sheriff and establish its own police force. On Tuesday, it announced it would drop that idea.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke out this week against the proposal.
  6. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The sides have not set a time to resume discussions on teacher pay.
  7. Vials of medical marijuana oil. [Monica Herndon | Tampa Bay Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. The Pasco County school district is considering adopting a policy for student medical marijuana use on district property. [Getty Images]
    The rule will not change the district’s current approach to the touchy topic.
  9. Shown in 2002, Carolyn Hill, then the principal of Kenly Elementary School in east Tampa, celebrated after 78 of her students improved their state scores and were treated to lunch at The Colonnade Restaurant. Hill, now deceased, might be honored Tuesday as the Hillsborough County School Board considers naming a school for her in the SouthShore area. STAFF  |  Tampa Bay Times
    School Board members will select a name on Tuesday
  10. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, 55, is now in his 11th year leading the fourth largest school district in the nation. Miami Herald
    The charismatic leader of the nation’s fourth-largest school district has a complicated legacy. He almost took over the Pinellas County School District in 2008.