Hats off to the hat policy


Willa Brosnihan

Unidentified student whose face is obscured by a hat

WILLA BROSNIHAN , Staff Writer, Editor

After consulting with law enforcement and legal council, administration will uphold the rule that prohibits hats and headgear in school. The rule was reconsidered after prompting from Gloucester High School sophomore John Van Ness.

Van Ness started a petition to amend the hat rule because students “should have the right to express themselves,” and because he believes the dress code is selectively enforced. “The dress code is not enforced except for the hat part,” said Van Ness, “and most girls get to wear their hats and men don’t.”

Principal James Cook says the rule will be upheld primarily for safety reasons. “Students and others who may be in the building are easier to identify when their faces are not obscured by hats, visors, hoods, and/or head coverings,” said Cook. “Minimizing impediments to identifying students and others, and minimizing impediments to identifying the emotional state of students and others, helps us maximize the safety of everyone in the school.”

The dress code policy will not be changed, and will be enforced as outlined in the student handbook. “My expectation is for everyone in the school to uphold this policy consistently and respectfully,” said Cook. 

“I agree with what Principal Cook decided because of the safety issue,” said history teacher Richard Francis. “But also, I agree with the traditional idea which is about respect. You are now entering an environment of education, and it is time to start working.”

English teacher Mary Kate Canavan also supports the decision to uphold the policy. “Freedom of expression needs to be curtailed when safety of the masses is jeopardized,” said Canavan. “Schools must be a place where all students feel safe and secure, self-expression must yield to this reality.”

For John Van Ness, the fight against the hat policy does not end with the administration’s decision to uphold it. “I’m going to the school committee meeting on Wednesday,” said Van Ness “and I’m encouraging people to go with me and show support for the student community.”

“Confusing freedom of expression with civic activism is unfortunate,” said Canavan. “Inspired activism is a wonderful endeavor when a cause is just and warranted. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish schoolgirl, has become a prominent activist in fighting climate change captivating the world with her advocacy. Thunberg’s involvement is a wonderful example for teens who are civic minded to perhaps invest in and commit to causes that are more secular and less self-involved.”