Letter to the Editor: Hats should be allowed in the dress code

Dear Editors,

An administrator confiscated my hat. I was overcome with a mania that made me want to express the incomprehensibility of the rule.

First, Atlanta Public Schools policy outlines seven “school dress code requirements.” To paraphrase, they are:

1. Dress cannot pose health or safety hazards.

2. Dress must be modest and of appropriate length and size.

3. Dress must not contain words or symbols that are gang-related, offensive, insulting, embarrassing, sexually suggestive, obscene or promote illegal behavior.

4. Dress must not contain symbols of alcohol, drugs or tobacco.

5. One must wear undergarments, pants that do not sag and no pajamas.

6. No hats, head coverings, etc.

7. One must have appropriate, safe shoes.

As one can see, the hat rule is out of place. The rest of the requirements outlined discuss safety practices and legitimate distraction concerns. There are two reasons that not only is this unfounded, but unconstitutional:

1. The no hat rule is in violation of the Establishment Clause. The history of the head covering ban is based in the removal of head coverings by men in Christian churches, a sign of respect to God. Everson v. Board of Education states, “Neither [state nor federal government] can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another.” One can only assume that the status quo being no hats is in violation of the Everson ruling.

2. The no hat rule is in violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Tinker v. Des Moines, a case discussing students’ right to wear armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, found that unless the instance is a clear distraction (something lewd or inappropriate), students cannot be forced to remove/change out of an article of clothing. Doing so is in violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The three most common arguments I have heard in favor of the ban from administrators and teachers are:

1. Hats are a distraction. This is silly for a couple of reasons. One, hats are like any other clothing item. Some are distracting, and some are simply an article of clothing. Even if some hats are so distracting to the point of needing regulation, this should be done on a case by case basis like shirts or pants.

2. Hats are disrespectful. I discussed this above. Hats are only disrespectful within the context of Christian religion. Why else is putting something on one’s head disrespectful? I have also been given, “people will fiddle with them and that is rude.” Again, this is not unique to hats. If one is going to fiddle, they will fiddle with something else.

3. It is APS policy. This is probably the argument that makes the least sense. Just because something is a rule, it does not mean that it is good, just or should continue to be in place. Even so, there are loopholes. The handbook states hats should not be worn “unless there is a special activity where they are deemed appropriate by the school principal.” Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman could mandate life, or school, to be a special activity.

In the end, I urge not only you as students to voice your concerns, but Grady teachers and administration to rethink their enforcement of this rule.