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VOICES: A Forum for Community Issues | Gripe

Tipping Your Hat to Policy

Van Nuys High School has a policy barring students from wearing hats to school. One student wondered about the reasons behind it. HELEN KIM spoke with the student and a school administrator.

August 21, 1999|HELEN KIM

KEY YOUNG KIM

15, junior, Van Nuys High School; lives in Panorama City

I never understood exactly why students from my school are not allowed to wear hats that don't have a Van Nuys High logo. If a student wants to wear a hat, it has to be a team hat or one purchased from the student store for $11. I prefer regular hats to our school hats because the regular ones are more fashionable and comfortable. Hats with logos from Nike, Adidas, etc. are only allowed when there is bad weather.

The administrators say that these kinds of hats instigate gang violence. If that's true, then why let students wear hats on rainy days? Does violence stop in bad weather? Any type of clothing that has profanity or promotes alcohol and drug use is prohibited. That's understandable, but the hat policy is ridiculous.

Administrators defend the hat policy by saying it is protecting students from gang violence. But I have never heard of someone who was shot because he was wearing the wrong hat. I don't think that clothes pose a real threat. Administrators should concentrate on other issues, such as programs that help people deal with gang problems. The hat policy encroaches on the right to freedom of expression. People should be able to wear whatever they want. I like to wear hats because I wake up late for school and don't have time to do my hair all the time.

There isn't much of a difference in "gang-affiliating" attire and what everyone pretty much wears anyway.

*

MARK POMERANZ

Dean, Van Nuys High School

The Van Nuys High School hat policy requires that students only wear hats that are either school team hats or hats that can be purchased from our student store. We do not allow other types of hats because they cause distractions in our learning environment and problems involving gang violence.

This rule applies to both female and male students. We have had cases in which a student violently took a coveted hat from another student. We have had kids who used hats for gang affiliation and identification. There were several incidents when a student wearing a hat was victimized by gang members. We have had students who wore hats promoting white power.

Hats promote gang violence in several ways. Some gangs change the logos into some sort of gang symbol. There are certain colors that particular gangs identify themselves with.

We have a large gang, but the problem is not always manifested on campus. There have been incidents when gang members took action against students after school because they were wearing particular hats.

We deans at Van Nuys do not make policy; we enforce it. The school-based management discipline committee--of students, parents, teachers, clerical staff members and administrators--makes these kinds of policies.

We also do not allow the stereotypical gang attire: the short cut-off jeans, the high socks, overtly baggy clothing, bare midriffs and bandanas. We also don't allow radios, CD players, Walkman radios, pagers or cell phones.

Van Nuys High School is generally nonviolent. The violence that we tend to have mostly comes from the community. If there is a problem that started in school, the violence tends to be off campus.

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