Beginning next school year, San Francisco public schools can set their own policies on allowing students to wear hats, caps or other head coverings — rules previously regulated by the district.
The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to remove districtwide restrictions on head wear, though the majority of The City's high schools have already adopted their own hat policies.
Board member Matt Haney, who introduced the resolution, said alleviating the district of implementing a hat policy — which currently prohibits hats and hair coverings in schools — will allow schools to tailor the regulations to their individual communities. The SFUSD does not prohibit religious head coverings.
“The expectation will be that high schools and middle schools will have conversations around changing their dress codes,” Haney said. “People feel very different, whether it's teachers, parents or principals, but we want to allow that conversation to take place.”
Superintendent Richard Carranza supported updating the policy as well, saying it is important for the district to “capture the spirit of our community values” and implement a current policy. The district last amended the dress code in 1997, according to SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.
“The best way to characterize our approach as going forward is more of a defined autonomy,” Carranza said.
Fourteen of the district's 19 high schools have already adopted rules on wearing hats in class and are seeing mostly positive results because teachers are able to spend less time enforcing such rules and more time teaching, according to Haney.
“We know that the primary function of schools is to educate kids,” Haney said. “If students are being sent out of class or teachers are having to spend time enforcing minor dress code rules, we aren't necessarily spending all of our time on our primary purpose.”
Faculty at Lincoln High School, one of the schools that has already adopted its own policy, voted to allow hats in school hallways two years ago — though teachers can still enforce a no-hat policy in the classroom — which has helped combat negative interactions between students and teachers, according to Principal Barnaby Payne.
“It's a pretty subtle difference, but starting the day with positive interactions can make a big difference about the how the student feels about their school day,” Payne said.
Though all seven board members and Carranza supported the resolution at Tuesday's meeting, concerns arose of possible inconsistencies among schools' hat policies, particularly if a student transfers between schools. Haney emphasized this will be “an evolving conversation.”
The resolution approved Tuesday also amended the dress code to prohibit the use of suspensions or expulsions as a punishment for violating a school's dress code or uniform policy, consistent with the district's greater effort to favor restorative practices over suspensions.