Capuchino High School is now the first school in its school district to cement a dress code in hopes of establishing a professional environment and preventing gang activity.
The school’s policy has been in effect for several years but was merely formalized with approval from the San Mateo Union High School Board of Trustees Thursday night. The vote was 4-1 in favor of the measure, with Trustee Marc Friedman voting against it.
Friedman thinks the policy stigmatizes Capuchino as being dangerous.
“This says there’s a gang problem at Capuchino,” Friedman said. “My secondary concern was that dress codes in general, unless there’s truly a safety issue, infringes on freedom of speech.”
He cites a board policy stating that “the principal, staff and parents/guardians at a school may establish a reasonable dress code that prohibits students from wearing gang-related apparel when there is evidence of a gang presence that disrupts or threatens to disrupt the school’s activities. The board shall approve the plan upon determining that it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the school’s students.”
A police officer who works on the school’s campus, as well as Principal Shamar Shanks attended Thursday night’s meeting and said that Capuchino doesn’t have a gang problem but that the code is a way to make sure it doesn’t get one.
The 2010 district wide dress code policy has a provision that allows for any school to bring forward more specific dress code rules and Capuchino is the first school to do so. The 2010 policy has general rules about not wearing gang related, sexually suggestive or drug related apparel and includes other terms.
The Capuchino policy specifies that clothing that indicates gang affiliation or in support of gang activity, such as dice, dollar signs, area codes, XIII, XIV, Norte, Sur, W, Crip, Blood or LPL. It also prohibits clothing that is red or blue, including backpacks, accessories, makeup, belts, shoes, laces, etc.
“Students are expected to dress in a manner that is not disruptive to the learning process, is safe and does not construe gang affiliations,” a staff report stated.
Kirk Black, the district’s associate superintendent for human resources and administrative services, said the district periodically reviews policies and decided to make this an official policy.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve the culture of schools,” said Liz McManus, deputy superintendent of business services for the district.
Board President Peter Hanley supported the item, calling it a proactive measure.
“It’s not very different from the district wide policy,” Hanley said. “It’s about dressing in a professional and respectful manner.”
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