Sometimes a public school, or even entire school districts, will have policies forbidding students from wearing hoods in class, the hallways, or elsewhere on school grounds. In more extreme situations, dress codes may have a full hoodie ban.
In other instances, the dress code itself will make no mention of a hooded sweatshirt in the school setting, but specific teachers still have classroom rules about the wearing of hoods.
But why? What’s all the fuss about? Why do teachers not like hoods, even when the school policy is relatively lenient? What are the arguments in favor of looser restrictions on hoodies, as well?
This article aims to look at all sides of the debate to help you form an opinion of your own. As an elementary school instructional coach, I do not often have my own opinion about dress codes, as they are more of an issue in middle schools and high schools.
However, the arguments against wearing a hood over your head transcend age groups. My own campus will not tolerate students keeping their hood up in most cases.
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Why do teachers not like hoods?
There are several possible reasons why your teacher or campus won’t tolerate a hood on your head in class. They are sometimes deemed unsafe, unprofessional, disrespectful, and possibly a distraction from learning.
If your entire campus has a no-hoods policy, it’s likely a decision made to protect student safety. In light of the alarming increase in school shootings across the United States, it’s become more important than ever to be able to see every student’s face, both in person and on security cameras.
Many security guards won’t let students into the school building with a hood up, and for good reason. It’s not just the matter of being able to easily identify every student in the building. The large front pockets on a hoodie can also present a problem, as it’s too easy to conceal all kinds of weapons while keeping them easily accessible.
For these reasons, it’s not unheard of for a public place like a mall to have the same no-hoodie policy.
It’s worth mentioning that a decade ago, there was an onslaught of news articles about hoodies being an indicator of gang activity or gang affiliation. To assume that a person of color is dangerous just because they are wearing a hoodie with the hood up is racial profiling, and it needs to be called out as such. Read more about this problem here.
Professionalism in Schools
Sometimes, either a teacher or school principal will have a no-hoodies clause in the dress code because they are perceived as being unprofessional.
In this case, you can bet there are plenty of other rules in place, too.
In a school environment where the primary dress code concern is about preparing students for the “real world,” you’re likely to also see restrictions on yoga pants, written text on graphic tees and jackets, and modesty clauses. All of these fall under the umbrella of “street style” that doesn’t align with the professional nature of a quality education.
As the workplace has become more casual in a post-Covid world, I would argue that this line of reasoning is easy to challenge and difficult to enforce. Many workplaces now are more relaxed about attire than ever before, and with so many still working from home, it’s not likely to change.
Most schools with any dress code at all will forbid the use of hats in the building, deeming them too casual for a learning environment. They will make exceptions for students wearing head coverings for religious reasons. A hood is merely a hat attached to a shirt, so it’s a logical extension to the policy.
Finally, some principals or school boards may argue that when a student is wearing a hoodie, they often use it to avoid eye contact with their teachers and other authority figures. Here in the United States, making eye contact with a superior and even with peers is a social norm that may need to be taught as preparation for the workplace.
Earbuds and Cell Phones
A final argument against students wearing hoodies is that it’s easy to hide earbuds under your hood while carrying a cell phone in the front pocket.
These earbuds can serve as a legitimate threat to a student’s academic performance. After all, if you are deliberately tuning out your teacher’s voice and refusing to take responsibility for your own learning, or participate in group discussions, you’re not likely to earn grades that you’ll be proud of.
Certainly, some kids are perfectly capable of turning off any audio and listening to their classmates and teachers, and then only put on music when it’s time for independent work. Still, most middle school students and some high school students will begin to abuse the privilege within months.
Showing Respect to Speakers
On highly secure campuses where safety is not a concern, I see no problem with wearing a hoodie. However, many students will pull up their hoods. Keeping a hood down so that you can give any speaker in the classroom your full attention is a sign of respect. When a teacher or any classroom presenter looks out at a classroom full of students who are disengaged, slouched in their seats, and covering their ears, it can be pretty intolerable given the amount of work that goes into the profession and presentation.
The vast majority of classroom teachers have earned any respect we can give them.
Why are some teachers more relaxed about hoodies?
There are plenty of campuses out there with a hoodie policy that individual teachers will choose to not enforce. Teachers do have the right to look away and let campus administrators or other teachers address dress code infractions.
Comfortable Learning Environment
Almost every reason why a teacher might choose to look past a breach of dress code falls under the umbrella of protecting a comfortable learning environment.
Some students with anxiety disorders and other mental health challenges will treat a hoodie almost like it’s a security blanket. On the other hand, seemingly healthy, happy kids will show favoritism toward one comfy clothing item. All the better if they pull up a hood and feel a bit more invisible, as this provides a sense of security.
For kids with strong clothing preferences, it’s not uncommon for me to see students wearing the same hoodie every single day, even in the warmer months. This happens even in elementary schools, especially with students who have some sensory processing disorders. Wearing the same soft clothing each day can provide a sense of comfort and predictability when so many other things feel out of their control.
Many of us would agree that there are few things more comfortable in the coldest winter months than a comfortable, well-worn sweatshirt. The argument can easily be made that our most comfortable clothes are also the ones least likely to distract us from learning.
Finally, while it may sound a bit silly, having the ability to pull up a hood on a bad hair day is another way students comfort themselves.
Many teachers are annoyed by what they perceive to be unnecessary rules and by having just one more thing to monitor. I can certainly relate to their frustration. Such dress codes that are overly restrictive tend to serve no one well, including those who have to enforce them.
The Culture of Your School and Hoodies
How your campus or district treats hoodies is a window into your school culture. In wealthy, high achieving school districts with low crime rates, you’ll find that it’s not uncommon for the school to sell hoodies with the school logo on it. These campuses see the value in school spirit merchandise, and hoodies sell out quickly. In these safe environments, hoodies are treated like a normal fashion statement. They may still have strict rules about wearing hoods over the head, though.
In places where student safety is a real concern, where there are frequently fights breaking out amongst high school students, you’re more likely to find a zero-tolerance policy toward hoodies. It’s just too easy to hide weapons, drugs, and phones in the large front pocket.
In short, most teachers do hate hoods being worn over the head. It has certainly become a controversial topic and it’s one that frustrates many teenagers who find it comforting to wear a hood on their head during the school day, especially in colder weather.
You’ll likely find that dress code policies vary widely across the United States. In my opinion, the most reasonable choice for most schools is to allow hoodies but not allow hoods to be worn over heads, for all the reasons stated above. A school’s number one job is to keep students safe and then to provide a quality education.
It’s up to you to decide if hoodies being worn on students’ heads provides a legitimate threat to school safety and maintaining some semblance of order.
However, it’s worth mentioning that there is value in respecting school rules no matter how frivolous they seem to be, as it’s a good life to skill to have for the future. For most of us, our success and financial well being depends somewhat on occasionally following rules that we think are ridiculous. As my father used to say, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” I suspect we have bigger fish to fry in the world of public education today.