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When students in grades 7-12 return to school after spring break on April 18, they will be permitted to wear hats at the discretion of their teacher.

This shift in the dress code is a pilot, or trial run, that was mutually agreed upon by the students, staff and administration at Arkport Central School District.  Put simply, teachers will have the flexibility to allow – or not allow – hats in their classes and classrooms. Hats will still need to be school appropriate and follow the district policy of acceptable and respectful material.

All students will be allowed to wear hats in the hallway but will be expected to remove their hats at the discretion of their teacher, or based on the activity occurring in class.

The decision to pilot a flexible hat policy is the result of a two-month shared decision making process between Arkport staff and students.

“At the start of the 2021-22 school year, district administration and staff established a priority to increase shared decision making and mutual collaboration amongst the students and staff,” Grade 7-12 Principal Koby Hahn said. “We believe that decisions will have greater support and will be likely to be implemented if they are the result of intentional collaboration with students, staff and administration. To that end, we wanted to elevate the student voice in the discussion about the school’s hat policies.”

The district has been using the online survey platform Thoughtexchange to learn more about student and staff’s feelings toward the hat policy and have continued conversations about how the policy can be adjusted and mutually agreed upon.

Results from the teacher exchanges showed that 80% do not believe wearing a hat in school negatively impacts student learning, and 77% of teachers supported the exploration of a change in the rule. Of the staff surveyed, 33% indicated they still expect hats to not be worn in their room.

Results from the student exchanges showed that 97% of students do not believe wearing a hat in school negatively impacts student learning, and 97% supported the potential change in the rule.

While this flexible policy will, in general, offer students the freedom to wear a hat if they choose, it will also require them to be flexible when situations call for removing a hat. In a way, this mimics expectations that they will encounter in the world upon graduating. Circumstances, both personal and professional, may call for certain expectations and it’s important to respect them if/as they arise.

The final marking period of the 2021-22 school year will be a pilot period for the flexible hat policy. After the school year is over, staff, administrators and students will discuss the success of the pilot and determine whether the flexible hat policy will be made permanen