After several Milton High students said they would wear hoods to school Tuesday to show support for the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, none walked past principal Joe Arangio during a period of about 20 minutes in front of the school.
Milton High has a policy against hoods, hats, and bandanas, but a group of students approached Arangio last Thursday asking him to approve a “hoodie day.” At that meeting the group was asked to return this Thursday with a proposal that doesn’t violate school policy and provides an educational benefit to students.
“They’ve said some things, we’ve said some things, and we’ve asked them to revisit us with a proposal,” Arangio said Tuesday. “Perhaps it can relate to civil rights discussions or stereotypes, both of which are frequently discussed in literature and social science classes.”
Reportedly wearing a hoodie, Martin, 17, was walking through a private gated community where he was staying in February when community watch coordinator George Zimmerman, while contacting Sanford police to report Martin’s allegedly suspicious behavior, began following him. A confrontation ended with Zimmerman shooting the unarmed teenager, authorities say. Zimmerman has said he acted in self defense.
On Monday, some students, not part of the initial group that met with administrators, said they would wear hoods Tuesday anyway regardless of the school’s policy. Many had read on a Facebook page set up by a student, that almost 100 people had said they would wear hoods Tuesday.
"Even if the school says we're not going to support it, we're doing it because we all recognize that this could have been our cousin or a member of our family," senior Gabrielle Clarke said Monday.
Arangio said Tuesday that staff will deal with hoodie-wearing students on a case-by-case basis if after asking asking a student to remove a hood he or she doesn’t comply. There is no specific consequence associated with dress code violations administrators says are in place to help create a “business-like atmosphere where students can succeed.”
“We recognize the significance of this and the importance it has in young people’s lives, but we can have these discussions within the framework of the classroom, which would be the most appropriate place for that type of dialogue,” Arangio said.
Department heads, assistant principals, and Arangio are scheduled to meet with the group who proposed the "hoodie day" idea initially. Until then, Arangio said he’s sure students will follow the rules and keep their hoods down if asked to do so.
“They know they have to take them off once they cross that threshold,” Arangio said, looking back at the school’s entrance. “Just like the rule on cellphones.”
Natalie Feulner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.