Mad Hatter or Fad Matter: The Hat Dilemma in Schools

Post by Nicholas W

Featured image “Everett – Ten Months” by Kevin Stanchfield, used under CC BY 2.0 / Resized 890×400

Clothes are beginning to take over my life. They are everywhere. In my car, in my locker, in my backpack, and, most importantly, they serve as my bedroom floor.

It didn’t used to be like this. Every day would consist of jeans and a T-shirt. Now, its more like “does this cardigan match my striped V-neck?” or, more recently, “will these jeans make my butt look big?” Come on people, winter ended. Give me a break. But the main consistency with my outfitting is a nice little newsboy cap that I got from Kohl’s (thank you Mom). I’m pretty sure it’s called a flat cap, but anyway.

I have a rather large head, so its difficult to find something that fits me, which made the moment when this particular hat rested on my head even more miraculous. I wanted—no, I NEEDED— to wear it everywhere. I felt confident and, dare I say, cool. So, I wore it everywhere… Including school.

For the first few days, it was fantastic. My peers would endlessly praise this rebellious—and adorable— accessory. Morally, I was a little conflicted, being fully aware of the strict rule against wearing hats in my school. I made it a goal to investigate why this rule was so strictly enforced, so I pushed it. I continued to wear the hat everywhere. Most of my teachers were very polite and asked that I take off my hat, whereas others didn’t say anything. And then there was that one teacher.

I would take the hat off immediately when I saw him.

Call it fear; call it an intimidated respect; call it what you will, but, all in all, I didn’t want my hat confiscated. One day, he caught me and confiscated my hat for the rest of the day. Following the school day, I walked shamefully to his classroom to retrieve my prized possession. He gave me my hat with a free lecture on why hats are not acceptable in school. “They psychologically affect people, and also take away the ability for cameras to recognize people if they commit some sort of crime. And, just imagine the sorts of hats people would wear to school if hats were allowed!”

Me being a sixteen-year-old boy, I was still mad about it. I’m just a guy trying to express myself.

According to the Upland High School hat policy in California, “students who refuse to remove their hats may be suspended for defiance.” If the hat represents some sort of gang, then I completely support the no-hats rule. But, can’t a person also sport a gang-related T-shirt or jacket to school as well? They would then be subjected to a similar sort of discipline as a person who sports their favorite team’s hat, just because they aren’t allowed in school.

Furthermore, the hat rule is also related to etiquette in public buildings. Many sources say that hats should be taken off in public buildings due to it being “rude.” I attend a public school program where it is allowed, and common, to show up wearing shabby pajamas with a sweatshirt accompanied by a pair of moccasins. And simple caps aren’t allowed. I wanted a more justified opinion than billions of internet surfers, so I looked for someone to interview.

The Interview

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to interview an administrator of Elk River High School, Mr. Ken Jordan, about the policy. These responses, paraphrased, opened up my eyes to a whole different side of the spectrum, like turning over a new leaf.

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“Japanese Maple Leaf” by KellarW, used under CC BY 2.0 / Resized to 890×400

Q: What are your thoughts of the hat policy at Elk River High School?

A: I have worked in administration for 33 years, and the policy was passed in the 90s while I was here. Gangs were popular back then, and kids would start showing their connections to gangs through their accessories, particularly hats. This caused a lower graduation rate and more fights in school, so the district needed to do something about it. So, the hat rule was enforced.

Students could also hide things in hats, including answers to cheat on tests.

On top of that, we always want to make sure our students are engaged in their classes and they

were actually learning things, so we asked students to take off hats in school for that reason as well.

Q: Would you ever consider changing the rule?

A: We felt like we needed to give students something, therefore we allow hats during Homecoming Week in the fall and Snow Week in the winter. But if we allowed students to wear hats during passing time, there would be an increased amount of fights because of kids grabbing each other’s hats. It’s also a management thing because it is disrespectful to wear hats in the classroom; we didn’t want to have to micromanage that.

Q: Do you see evidence of gang affiliation in our school today?

A: We really don’t see evidence today because of the rules we implement. We try to create a level playing field with everybody, so, even if there are gang relations in the school, our goal is to make this a place where everyone is equal. We don’t want someone intimidating other people because he’s wearing some sort of bandana that is representing his place in the gang. We do believe they are out there, but they just cannot advertise themselves anymore.

Q: Do you have any extra comments regarding the policy?

A:  Like I said before, we want a level playing field. It becomes a thing of fairness and its just more manageable to say that hats aren’t allowed in school. People would show these gang relations by different colors with their hats and any sort of slight rotations, so they had to go. It’s different with smaller schools and farming communities that have bigger relationships between students and teachers, so you can tell that they mean no harm by their hats.

The gentlemen also would use their hats as an excuse not to shower or wash their hair. That’s just gross. Additionally, it was difficult to tell individual students level of engagement or just general emotion too, so if a student was crying, we wouldn’t be able to tell.

Generally through life, people also tend to judge each other a lot. Perceptions of how people are supposed to be based on their clothing was also a big factor. We didn’t want stereotypes floating around, once again tying to student equality.

The interview process was very revealing. I had no idea that there are so many creatively evil ways to abuse hats in school. I left the room inspired to take care of my hair more often.

All in all, hats are great accessories and can be very reflective of your personality. But now I feel more comforted in knowing our administration has ample justification towards implicating it in our school. Even Mr. Jordan said during our interview process that he loves to wear hats, but they just aren’t appropriate in schools.

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4 thoughts on “Mad Hatter or Fad Matter: The Hat Dilemma in Schools

  1. I agree with a majority of this post. However, I strongly disagree with Mr. Jordan saying that hats are not allowed because of gentlemen using their hats as an excuse not to shower or wash their hair. I believe hats have nothing to do with this. Shirts could be used as an excuse to not wash your body, but they dont ban shirts. Also, with the gang affiliation I do understand that gang material could be sported on hats, but it could be sported on any other piece of clothing or even bracelets.

  2. This whole blog was very interesting it really caught my eye. I really didn’t know they had a full on reason for this rule an that there were that many problems in the past very interesting. I wonder what all of the other administrators think especially the principal. I live this blog post very well written nick caught my eye right away.

  3. I loved this whole article and you were able to write it in a way that i stayed engaged through the whole post unlike most posts. Although i do believe you should have had some countering questions stating statistics and making the point that gangs are not as relevant nowadays in Elk River to Mr. Jordan, but i do now respect the rule more now and i believe that is what teachers should be telling us when we ask why we cant wear our hats, not “They psychologically affect people” and “just imagine the sorts of hats people would wear to school if hats were allowed!” because that is just plain rude for not even giving students the chance to express themselves in even the littlest way.

  4. I still don’t feel comfortable about how the administration handled the justification because it was, like you said, “creatively evil ways to abuse hats.” They did not look at the positive impacts of students being able to express themselves and their excuses seem very select. By this I mean it’s all about crime, gang activity, cheating, nothing that can’t be fixed by teachers stepping in and settling this themselves rather than restricting the freedom and creativity of everyone.

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