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Hats Required - At School?...it's a foreign concept for some, but in Australia, hats are standard issue - and for good reason. Contributor, Barbara Braxton, really caught some American teachers off guard when she explained her school's hat policy:

"Hats are COMPULSORY in most Australia schools as part of the SunSmart Policy. Skin cancer is one of the biggest killers of Australian adults and the damage starts in childhood so we make the kids very aware of slip (on a t-shirt), slop (on some sunscreen), slap (on a hat) and wrap (your eyes in sunglasses.) This is a continual advertising campaign on television. Most schools have a 'no hat, then play under cover' rule all year round because it is not the temperature that is dangerous but the UV rating (which is a feature of the daily weather forecasts) and many schools are now insisting on broad brimmed hats or legionnaires style. Caps offer no protection. At Palmerston, we have even put large roofs over our two outdoor equipment areas so they are safe all year round. How do American schools address the issue of the danger of the sun? Is the Australian sun different? Is cancer prevention not a school issue there? Or are your education authorities leaving themselves wide open to a heap of lawsuits in the future from kids with cancer that started when they were young? Just curious... [Barbara Braxton Teacher Librarian, Palmerston District Primary School, PALMERSTON ACT 2913 AUSTRALIA]

Also teaching in Australia, Cassandra was quick to point out that "Australian schools do not wear hats inside. In the yard it is a must, especially during late spring, summer and early autumn. Its very easy to get sunburnt and as someone has already said skin cancer is a big killer here. We are protecting ourselves. Children are also taught in schools the reason for this. Teachers also are required to wear hats outside to protect there selves too. By the way,it is rude to wear hats inside ... but we need to wear them outside especially during the hotter times here [when it's] 43 degrees celcius (or 109f)."

Of course, we are talking OUTDOORS here, and even in the U.S. we don't keep students from wearing their ball caps outside, but contributor, Fiona, was quick to add, "hats aren't worn inside the classroom at all - they are removed as the children come inside and either put on hooks or in bags until they are needed again. Never heard any sort of argument about it. And these are Hats - with brims all round, not baseball caps, which are worse than useless against the sun (because they give an illusion of protection without actually providing much).
I think we have a strong cultural difference here, dictated by different environments, both social and climatic."

Baseball caps do afford little protection from the sun, but that isn't the only reason you won't find them worn by Aussie students. From Brisbane, (Queensland, Australia), Teacher/Librarian, Trish Wade, explains, "Most schools here have school uniforms and all the hats are the same style and colour. Because of this, we don't have the same issues with gang identification and stealing [that are common in the U.S.]."

So with all the positive and beneficial arguements for wearing hats, it would seem to make sense that U.S. schools would follow suit, and require them on the playground, right? It would seem that on the other side of all the water seperating our two countries, we still remain focused on how to keep hats OFF while in the building.If you need a refresher in why they're banned nearly everywhere (indoors) in U.S. schools, let us supply a refresher course:

  • "IF the hat is interferring with the education of the student, e.g. brim covers eyes, it represents a gang affiliation which creates a disruption, theft of the hat or horseplay with the hat causes a disruption, losing the hat, etc., reason wins out for the banning. Students need to learn that harmony and a productive milieu requires a certain amount of order." -Sharon
  • "Our district has a no hat policy that was placed into effect to stop the wearing of not just hats but bandanas and other head coverings that signify membership in a gang. We have had increasing problems with this. We also do not allow them to wear clothing that indicates gang membership such as one color scrubs. The students don't like it but the parents have been very supportive of the policy. Students who wear gang colors are treated as gang members whether they are or not. This discourages the "wannabes" from creating more problems." Sybil Hampton Texarkana, TX
  • Our dress code has never allowed hats in school. Not because of gangs, but because of "Cooties"! -C. Scott
  • "I have always considered hats to be outerwear. But as schools have removed lockers, the students carry around everything from room to room, including jackets and backpacks. The line is really blurred. Not only don't I allow hats (which is against school rules), I don't allow students to wear jackets, sweaters, windbreakers, vests, or sweatshirts (if they have a shirt underneath). -Sandra Follansbee
  • "Students are not allowed to wear hats in school - [that] is our policy due to the gangs. We also don't allow bandan's or flags tied in their hair. We used to have a day were they could wear their favorite team but we also had to stop that for gang reasons. -Dana, Immokalee Middle school, Immokalee, FL
  • "Our school does not allow hats except for special spirit days like hat and glasses day, etc. Some of the reasons are 1: lice (kids are always trying on other's hats), 2: respect, and 3: distractions (they are often played with during class). By the way, girls aren't allowed to wear the bandanas that are fashionable right now either since that would be sexist." -Susan [Gr8Tunes]
  • "What is wrong with the basic etiquette that hats are removed when coming indoors, unless it is worn for a special purpose (i.e., a construction worker's hard hat, a graduate's mortar board)? Why should there be any other rationale?" -Dan Bergstrom
  • "[Hats] can block a person's view, hide one's eyes from eye contact, and are often taken off and put back on repeatedly or played with." Nancy 4/KY
  • "1. It's too easy for a student to "hide" under the brim of his/her hat. If they tip their head down, you can't see their eyes, and conversely, they can't see YOURS, either, which usually means they're not paying attention. 2. It became a "contest" to see which kid could wear his/her hat in the most outlandish, attention-getting way! (Crooked, backwards, slanted, sideways, upside-down, inside-out, etc., etc. ad nauseum.) 3. Theft! Kids were constantly doing something to each other's hats. When I was an administrator, I can't tell you the countless HOURS I wasted dealing with "He stole my new hat" issues. I even had to put up with irate parents who would storm into my office demanding that the SCHOOL pay for their son's stolen hat! The general feeling among the staff is that they LOVE not having to deal with "hat issues" anymore. It leaves more time for actual INSTRUCTION!" -Jerry Taylor Technology Integration Teacher Greece (NY) School District
  • "Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think that it is good to retain some of the behaviors of the past that were considered respectful, like removing your hat when you enter a building. Our society has lost a great deal of structure...why not keep some of it. Both the school that I teach at and the school my children attend are both "no hats inside policy" and I don't remember it ever being an issue. Actually the school that my children attend has a day once in a while that you can make a donation to the local children's hospital and get a sticker on your hat so you can where it all day. I know that both my father and my mother-in-law consider it a personal insult if someone walks into their house without removing their hat, so why not teach children some respectful ways, even if just to make the older people happy?!" -Ruth Anne Greenough
  • "We are a private/parochial school w/ uniform -- our boys (only) are not allowed to wear hats inside the building because it is not the gentlemanly thing to do." -Leslie [TROUBLE625]
  • "I do not allow hats to be worn in my classroom. Once, I saw a student at a school play. I was teasing him about wearing his hat.... all of a sudden, here comes DAD to say hello and yep, DAD was wearing a hat as well! Had to laugh!" -Linda from Atlanta
  • "The glare from the flourescent lights gives some people headaches and hurts their eyes. Wearing a ball cap cuts down on the glare on the paper from the lights. It is against our school policy for children to wear ball caps or hats of any kind in the building so we wear the caps only in my classroom. They must remove them before leaving my room and cannot wear them until they get inside. -Vanessa, NC/Grade 5

So, it seems that hats may deserve a little more attention and consideration than we have previsously given them. Should hats be required outdoors? Do your students know that sun exposure is damaging to their skin? Perhaps what we really need is a new fashion movement in the U.S. - now that the Olympics have begun, we could copy the Australian look of the hats with brims, and make them trendy! No? Well, at least be sure to check out our Sunny Days page for lesson ideas you can use on sun exposure.


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