Hats on, or off?


…to new school policy n Malibu High administrators cut short a newly allowed freedom-the ability to wear hats to school-by dictating what style students can wear.

By Caitlin Harris/Special to The Malibu Times

In light of a new law issued by the state of California for 2002 that affects public school students throughout California, controversy has arisen at Malibu High School. The new sun protection law requires that schools allow students to wear sun-protective clothing when and where necessary.

This new law defies many high schools’ hat policies, which banned hats, partially because certain styles signify gang affiliations.

Former Malibu High Assistant Principal Pat Cairns’ office wall was lined with hats confiscated from students on campus. Now, in response to the new law, administrators are enforcing a districtwide hat policy that permits students to wear “hats and caps on campus in order to protect students from the sun, [but] all students are required to adhere to the following guidelines when wearing hats or caps on campus. Beginning on Feb. 4, 2002, students may wear any of the following hats or caps: school hats provided by an authorized associate student body organization, or plain black hats or caps. Students may not wear any other hats or caps.”

This rankles many students on campus.

As the school year reconvened after winter break, students wore hats during lunch and in classes-whenever they could get away with it. Many relished their newfound hat-wearing freedom, but others were upset by the new district enforcements.

“It’s not that we have to wear school hats. It’s just the point that we have been given a right and now the school is taking that away from us,” said Christene Hoff, a junior at Malibu High School.

Principal Mike Matthews states there are two reasons why the new hat policy needs to be enforced: school safety and school spirit.

When asked about the severity of the school safety issue, Matthews responds, “It’s just one more thing. It’s not the critical lynch. It would be more of a hassle for me to keep this campus safe [without the new policy].”

According to Matthews, the campus has an influx of unofficial visitors on a weekly basis and some may endanger the safety of the students. Matthews has always used the no hat policy as a tool to catch visitors who have not checked in with the office before coming on campus. This aids security in differentiating Malibu High School students from visitors.

Some students see the new hat policy as a further unnecessary restriction rather than a policy for their safety.

“Basically, I think the administration is coming down too strict on us. Part of our freedom is being taken away,” said junior Nikki Foos.

As for school spirit, “If student council designs the hats, then the school [students] will hate us for it,” said Hoff, a student councilmember. She later adds, “Knowing our school, it will decrease school spirit.”

Junior Jessica Garb, an art student, presents another view.

“I am offended that [the administration] is going to have student council design a hat that everyone should wear,” she declared. “There are art students who focus their whole class schedule on art, who plan on making a career of fashion design. They never ask us to do anything that has to do with the school. Personally, I wouldn’t wear a hat that they make.”

The administration believes it has made the right decision, and, in a matter of time, the students’ frustrations over the new hat policy will dwindle.

“You go to other high schools and people enjoy being a part of their school and proud of it,” said Matthews. “I don’t think that will hurt us here.”

Although administrators have attempted to be flexible with the new policy by allowing plain hats without logos, some students have voiced their protests over the new policy among themselves, to teachers, to Matthews and at pep rallies.

Garb said, “Hats, like any other article of clothing, allow students to express their individuality. There should be no restrictions on what hats students can wear.”