This year for the first time, students are allowed to wear hats and hoods inside of the school building. And so far, it’s been great. Students who had previously gotten in trouble for a simple head covering, can now wear hats and hoods without discussion.
In the beginning of my sophomore year, I got a haircut that I absolutely despised. It gave me immense anxiety to even show my face at school the next day, so I threw a sweatshirt on and put the hood up.
Few teachers said anything about my hood. But one teacher kept arguing me on it. I pulled my hood back slightly, but she wasn’t satisfied with the “amount of my head showing.” She came up to me and told me I would be sent to the office if I couldn’t abide by the rule. I slowly removed my hood, and all eyes were on me. It came to the point where I had an anxiety attack in class, I covered my head with my arms, and I cried. All because of a seemingly useless policy.
For the rest of the year, I needed hats and hoods to simply get through a school day. Students would make comments, try to take off my hood while I was distracted or try and report me to teachers for breaking the rule. People asked me why I couldn’t just take it off, it couldn’t be that bad, right? The thing was that it wasn’t that bad. I just had so much anxiety about change, that I couldn’t bring myself to take the hoods off.
But something I noticed while going through this was that while often times, I could walk through the halls in my hats and hoods. But if someone who was a darker skin complexion than I am were to be wearing a hood, they seemed to be called out a lot more. People who would be only a few feet ahead of me in the halls would get called out everyday, while I would slide by, going unnoticed. The hat policy, I noticed, was targeting darker skinned students.
My hat was my comfort item, as it is for many people. I felt like it kept me safe and hidden. I can throw a hat on, and my hair looks fine.
Having African American hair has been one of my main sources of anxiety. It’s constantly tangled, and hair cuts are more expensive and it’s an overall different type of hair than any other ethnicity. Weaves can cost upwards of $300 and braids can be $150 to $200. Hats are simple solutions to hair issues.
Even though I have gotten over it now, a more relaxed hat policy would have improved my whole year. It would have taken the stress off of myself and relieved a lot of anxiety.
But one person’s positive experience with the change doesn’t make it good. The new policy is great for Wilde Lake because kids can use their freedom of expression in non-harmful ways. They can feel more comfortable and safe in their school environment. Or hey, maybe it’s just cold.