Beaufort News

Beaufort County students applaud newly permitted hoodies

When student Lindsey Clare arrived inside Hilton Head Island High School from near-freezing temperatures Monday morning, she was warmer and more comfortable than she had been at other times this winter.

Clare was among the first students to take advantage of Saturday's amendment to the Beaufort County School District's uniform policy that allows hooded sweatshirts -- "hoodies" -- during school hours.

"We're all really, really happy it was able to get approved, especially with this weather outside," she said. "It gives us more freedom with our dress code."

Members of the superintendent's Student Advisory Council, representing all five of the county's public high schools, petitioned the Board of Education in December for the change. The board approved it at a work session this past weekend.

Before then, the uniform policy that went into effect at public high schools in August and at elementary and middle schools in 2009 prohibited hoodies. It allowed students to wear un-hooded sweatshirts in school-approved colors over uniforms in the classroom.

The Student Advisory Council objected and outlined its concerns in a resolution to the school board.

School sports teams and other organizations often make hoodies with school-affiliated designs and logos, students said, and they are available for purchase in some school stores. Students argued that apparel should be allowed. Students also said sweatshirts without hoods are difficult to find, but hoodies are readily available.

"It was a hard thing not to be able to have," said Clare, senior class president at Hilton Head High.

School board member Laura Bush praised students for "the way you brought this to us, with the input from your peers, and the careful thought you put into bringing the recommendation forward."

The amendment approved by the board includes some caveats.

School administrators can set rules for when hoodies may be worn, and the garments must meet school-approved criteria for style and color, like other uniform tops. Students can't put their hoods up while in school.

The amendment also requires the change to be revisited after a year to determine if it has contributed to discipline problems.

"It's not meant to be a free-for-all," said Beaufort High School principal Dan Durbin.

Durbin said he and other administrators support the change. The ban on hoodies had been one of the biggest points of contention in the uniform policy, and the battle wasn't worth continuing, he said.

Durbin said student government representatives did a good job developing their proposal, researching the issue and presenting it to the faculty and school board.

"Now we'll be able to see if they are able to make sure their classmates understand it and follow it," he said.