It may not be a part of the curriculum, but students would be wise to learn it well, for they will be tested.
Beginning this fall, Capuchino High will accelerate its efforts to enforce a strict dress code in an attempt to improve teenagers’ personal and professional appearance, as well as avoid any occurrence of gang misconduct related to attire, said Principal Shamar Shanks.
The clothing crackdown is a big part of the school's effort to change its perception of being a gang-affiliated or “rough" school.
“The biggest benefit to the school is that how our kids look will significantly help with their self-image and how they identify themselves,” Shanks said. “Likewise, for years, Capuchino has suffered from an inaccurate perception of being a rough school. Unfortunately, when students look a certain way, it can sometimes reinforce a stereotype.”
Shanks said the idea for the strengthened dress code derived from a philosophy the school employs, called the "Six Essential Skills for College and Career Readiness," to prepare students for their educational and occupational future.
“One of the essential skills is citizenship, and where we articulate a part of this skill is personal presentation and appearance,” Shanks said. “With this understanding, we just want students to know that how they look can either work for them or against them, thus it is important to be mindful of how they dress.”
College-Minded Attire Encouraged
Shanks added that tightening the dress code ensures that students always present themselves as academic scholars.
The dress code already in place forbids students to wear clothing that is predominantly red or blue, two colors namely associated with the Crips and the Bloods, overarching rival gangs.
Also included in the revamped dress code policy is the move to do away with oversized clothing, namely in the form of T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. Wearing black hoodies, popular among many youths, will now be prohibited.
Students are encouraged to wear clothing representing Capuchino High or college gear, in which case color will not matter.
Clothing Not the Root of School's Problems
Needless to say, a number of students are less than enthusiastic about the new school rules.
One of those students is 17-year old senior Justin Pieraldi, who says that changing the dress code is not the way to weed out gang conflict.
“They said my freshman year that there was a lot of gang issues, so they banned red and blue, but it didn’t work,” Pieraldi said. “Last year, there were a couple of kids who wore red all the time and they threatened to expel them. Now, they’re just doing it because they think it will fix all their problems.”
“I don’t even know how they’re going to enforce it,” he added. “I mean, red and blue clothing and black hoodies—everybody wears that.”
Senior Tim Gretter, 17, reiterated the idea that gang issues are not a result of clothing, but rather of mentality.
“I think it’s making it known that the administration wants a change, but coming from the student body, I don’t think it’s going to fix any problems because the problem is in the attitudes,” Gretter said.
Chipping Away at Negative Stereotypes
The dress code, as outlined on the school website, could be considered a direct stab at eradicating any gang issues at the school.
The sixth do-not on a ten-rule list bans any clothing “that indicates affiliation or in support of gang activity,” mentioning dice, dollar signs and area codes as an example of illustrations not allowed for students’ clothing.
In addition to outlawing red and blue clothing, students will not be allowed to wear backpacks, clothing accessories, make-up and many other items that are primarily red or blue.
“Of course there are students who want to wear what they want and don't like the new rule,” Shanks said. “However, there is no workplace that has a wear-anything-you-want-type policy, so our students can consider it preparation for their future.”
Underlying the policy switch are questions of exactly how prominent are gang issues at Capuchino High.
Shanks said that Capuchino itself is not the source of gang concerns, but she cannot say the same for neighboring communities.
“Capuchino does not have gang problems, but it would be naive to think that gang issues are not present within local communities,” Shanks said. “Thus, for safety purposes, it is in their best interest to not wear red or blue.”
“Everyone who attends Capuchino knows that Capuchino is a safe school, but those on the outside only spew messages they have heard in the past,” Shanks added. “So ensuring that students present themselves in a certain way will only positively begin to chip away at that negative perception of Capuchino.”
Students Warn of Unneccessary Profiling
Sophomore Capuchino student Amirah Powell, 15, has heard the negativity associated with her high school, but she said she didn't know where it may have stemmed from.
“It’s not that bad. It’s pretty chill,” Powell said of the school. “There are some rough people and stuff can get out of hand, but that rarely ever happens. So I don’t know why people always think that our school is bad.”
Mikayla Spooner, also a sophomore, said that having a strict dress code is not particularly ineffective. But, in her eyes, the issue is certainly deeper than red or blue clothing.
“Some of it, I think, could be necessary, but other ideas are kind of overboard,” said Spooner, 15. “If you’re in a gang, you’re going to be in a gang regardless, no matter what you wear.”
Older students, however, such as Gretter and Pieraldi, heading into their final year at Capuchino, seem to be much more opinionated on what exactly the Cap administration is hoping to accomplish.
Gretter said that the administration might be treading into some dangerous waters with the enforcement of the new dress code.
“I see where they’re coming from, but then it kind of gets to the point where they start profiling,” Gretter said. “I know from people’s past experiences that it gets to the point where they take who you are into account, not just what you wear.”
Pieraldi’s main gripe is the effect that the dress code will have on those who have not been associated with any type of gang misconduct or conflict during their tenure at Cap.
“There are a lot of kids like me who don’t have any problems with this at all, and we’re going to get screwed for wearing a black hoodie,” Pieraldi said. “I think it’s kind of dumb and I don’t like it at all.”