Students at GlenOak High School were told they would not be permitted to wear zip-up hooded sweat shirts during class upon their return from Thanksgiving break. The message was met with anger, shock and frustration by students. Within the hour, a petition was being circulated and a peaceful protest demonstration was being planned.
No more zip-up hoodies.
That was the announcement that came over GlenOak High School’s public address system during morning announcements Wednesday.
The edict came without explanation. Students were simply told that they would not be permitted to wear zip-up hooded sweat shirts during class upon their return from Thanksgiving break.
The message was met with anger, shock and frustration by students. Within the hour, a petition was being circulated and a peaceful protest demonstration was being planned.
“Everyone was kind of upset with the announcement,” said junior Mike Hudson, who was wearing a hoodie when the unexpected announcement came over the P.A.
School officials said later that they consider zip-up hoodies to be coats -- and coats are not allowed to be worn during class in Plain Local Schools.
The angry reaction by students caught Principal Mark Hartman off guard.
“I did not expect it,” Hartman said Friday. “If I did, we would not be having this conversation. We have great kids. We have a great staff. Here is what the challenge is -- we have to define what is an acceptable hoodie in school and what is not.”
Hartman said the district has rescinded the order banning the zip-front hoodies until it can more clearly define what it means by a hoodie. It’ll do that with help from parents and students. So, come Tuesday, students can wear hoodies to school without fear of punishment.
Give me a reason
Junior Renee Starn and her twin sister, Natalie, couldn’t understand why zip-up hoodies were singled out by the GlenOak administration.
“Basically, they didn’t give us an explanation why hoodies were banned,” Renee Starn said. “They just said students were not allowed to wear them. We’ve always been allowed to wear them before.”
Kelly Whitt, a junior, said rumors had been circulating about hoodies being banned, but no one believed it would actually happen.
“I teared up,” Chadd Dine said jokingly. Dine said he opposes the prohibition of hoodies and wears one on a regular basis.
Hartman said he had sent an e-mail to staff regarding concerns about hoodies, but said an announcement wasn’t meant to be made to students this soon.
“This is what happens when you expedite things,” he said. “If I had to do it over again, I would do it differently. We needed to have more conversations with our students. I’ve gotten a myriad of e-mails and conversations out in public about it.”
Through text messages and MySpace pages, students talked to one another and planned to protest the ban by wearing hoodies to school on Tuesday.
The Starn twins’ mother, Kim Hollinger, supports the planned protest and the students’ right to wear hoodies.
“These kids have so much going on,” Hollinger said. “They aren’t in trouble. Let’s get our priorities straight.”
The outcry by students, with support from their parents, played no small part in school officials’ about-face on the hoodie ban.
The district plans to move forward with new rules on student attire, but not until all involved have more discussion on the matter. So, starting Tuesday, Hartman said, students, staff and parents will be brought together to talk about hoodies and appropriate indoor and outdoor wear.
“Hoodies have changed from what they were back in the day,” Superintendent Chris Smith said. “Then you wore a hoodie if you chopped a tree in the woods. Now, they’re everywhere. We’ll call a time out, have a huddle and move on.”
Hartman said if students wear hoodies on Tuesday as part of a protest, it’s fine. No one will be disciplined because of it.
“They can do their peaceful protests, but it will not make a difference,” Hartman said. “I appreciate their organization. I appreciate their passion. I worry about a lot of things in Plain Local right now. This reaffirms our kids can do a lot. We just have to expect a lot from them.”
Once officials iron out a definition for hoodies and what is acceptable, then the newest dress code rule will go into effect, Hartman said.
“People need to know what it is. When people feel comfortable, we’ll tell them when the rule goes into effect,” he said.
Reach Repository writer Fellicia Smith at (330) 580-8312 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org