LUSD policy on ‘do-rags’ sends mixed signals to students

Tokay HS explicitly bands head covering while BC decides on a 'case-by-case' basis

Ahmad Annous, Staff Writer

The “durag,” sometimes spelled “do-rag,” first worn as a headcover by female African-American laborers, has evolved to become a fashion piece after the Black Power Movement in the 1960s. Today, students wear durags as a “wave cap” — a hair holder that locks in a diplike appearance of curls that are commonly referred to as waves.

Although the dress code bans other fashionable accessories, such as baseball caps, hoodies and any headgear that isn’t observing a religious belief, some students argue that the durag should be an exception to the rule for cultural and practical reasons.

“What a lot of the elders in this community may not understand is that it’s not just a fashion [statement], there is a real culture behind it,” senior Vincent Ferrer, who wears a durag, said. “There is a policy around here, but I think it should change for durags along with the evolving culture.”

Students say it is important to them to have respectable hair, and removing their durags could expose their yet completed waves, causing ridicule.

“It makes me feel uneasy,” Ferrer said. “There’s no reason for me to take it off, everyone out there is trying to hate on me and my process, but I will keep doing me.”

Staff, however, argue that durags are as cultural as baseball caps and should be removed when students enter the classroom.

“It’s a matter of respect,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “My syllabus reiterates school dress code policy saying, ‘All head coverings, unless religious or cultural, come off your head when you walk through my door.’ To me, it is like a baseball cap; there are no emotional feelings towards it, it’s just a rule that has been enforced for years that applies to any head coverings — durags included.”

Other schools have taken action to remove the durag from their campuses, such as John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., in which the durag itself is banned. Bear Creek has shown more leniency in its interpretation of the dress code, but Tokay High School — also in Lodi Unified School District — specifically mentions durags as a separate category and bans them.

“Hats, beanies, do-rags, scarves, bandanas, hoods and any other form of headwear are not to be worn inside buildings or classrooms at Tokay High,” Tokay High’s dress code states.

Principal Hillary Harrell says her philosophy is to discern why the headgear is being worn before making a decision on whether to allow it.

“We are going to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, but generally, you are not supposed to wear any non-religious head covering,” Harrell said. “Anytime I think about policy, I think about what I want to teach my students. If we are willing to have a conversation about things like dress code, I am willing to listen and try to accommodate you.”

When reached for comment and clarification on this issue of durags in dress code, Board President Gary Knackstedet said , “​The role of the Board of Education is to set policy for the district,” Knackstedet said. “Information regarding ‘dress’ can be found in Policy 5132 and Policy 5136.”

These policies state, “​Each school shall allow students to wear sun-protective clothing, including but not limited to hats, for outdoor use during the school day.”

However, these policies have no information on dress code that dictates what students are allowed to wear on Lodi USD campuses. Rather, the codes Knackstedt references only provides

information on how to get uniforms allowed onto a school. The policy protects the right to sun protective clothing but has no information on what type of clothing that would encompass.

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