Taft HS students may wear hats in class
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School students will be able to wear hats in the hallways and classrooms this fall under a new policy that the Taft School Local School Council approved by a 9-1 vote at its July 9 meeting.
"I’m really torn on this," Taft principal Mark Grishaber said, referring to a survey on the proposal. "My teachers are 50-50. Our parents are 70-30 (against)."
A short time later Grishaber announced his decision to support the proposal based on the academic accomplishments of the school’s students.
"Yes, I’m going with my kids," Grishaber said. "My vote is for our kids getting us recognized by the U.S. News and World Report as one of the top schools in the country, and our kids deserved that."
This year marked the first time Taft had been recognized as being in the top 40 percent of high schools in the nation and 143rd in Illinois. He said that Taft was ranked higher than several better funded suburban high schools, including Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor.
Grishaber said that he was proud of how the students fought for the policy change, which came at the urging of the Student Voice Committee. The committee argued that Taft does not have the gang problems often cited as the reason for hat bans and that allowing hats would give students more opportunity for more self-expression.
"Since Day One, I have been telling my kids to advocate for themselves," he said. "(The change) also sets us up as a more progressive school. We’re leading."
Despite the lopsided vote in favor of the change, some LSC members raised concerns about the "rare case," as one member described it, when a student wears a hat which others in the classroom find culturally offensive.
Grishaber said that he does want teachers making judgment calls on the appropriateness of a hat and that students can be referred to the dean’s office for violations of the dress code, which will be amended to allow the wearing of hats.
The existing dress code bans clothing with "suggestive, abusive, inappropriate language or designs, or language that includes put-downs (i.e. I’m with stupid)." References to drugs, alcohol, tobacco or weapons also are prohibited.
Under the plan, teachers will not have discretion to ban hats in their own classroom. "The reason I want teachers out of this is I’m protecting them. … I want them to teach," Grishaber said.
The wearing of bandanas and hoods will continue to be prohibited inside the school, and Grishaber has said that hats may be prohibited during tests, due to the possibility of cheat notes being written on the brim.
Previously students were required to store hats inside their lockers, and head coverings were only allowed for religious reasons.
Students can wear hooded sweatshirts, but the hood cannot be worn inside the school. Concerns have been raised at previous LSC meetings that a hood covers too much of a student’s face and that faces should remain visible for security reasons.
The hat ban was not being enforced in all classrooms, Grishaber said. "I walk the hallways and see two to three hats in every classroom," he said.