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School Board Amends Lowell High Dress Code to Allow Head Wraps, Scarves

January 17, 2019

LOWELL -- Following months of efforts by Lowell High School students, the School Committee agreed Wednesday night to amend the district’s dress code to allow head wraps and scarves.

“I’m really optimistic about the vote,” said Neyder Fernandez, a senior at Lowell High School. “It shows that students can be empowered. ... I think it’s a new page in Lowell High being respectful and inclusive to other cultures.”

Fernandez and fellow seniors, Colin Martin, Eunice Tabea and Sara Ngare, said they felt encouraged after the School Committee’s 7-0 vote amending a dress code update earlier passed by the School Committee for the 2018/19 school year.

According to the Head of Lowell High School Marianne Busteed, the update to the dress code banning head coverings was originally made due to safety concerns. She said the school was concerned students with head coverings would not be identifiable on security cameras.

Students could still be granted religious exemptions allowing them to wear head coverings.

The change generated an outcry among students in May, extending into the fall semester. They formed a group of about 15 people called the Cultural Commission and organized a petition as well as a peaceful protest where students wore head wraps.

The group said they worked with Busteed, School Committee member Connie Martin and Acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin to overturn the ban.

At the School Committee meeting Wednesday, students showed a video explaining the cultural and practical significance of head wraps and scarves, drawing on the high school’s long history of diversity.

“Lowell schools educates people from different cultures and backgrounds all over the world,” said a student in the video. “With these backgrounds come various traditional values.”

Busteed said the newest change allows head coverings that would be acceptable in a “professional” work setting. This means head wraps and scarves are now allowed, but not doo rags or skull caps, she said.

She believes these allowed forms of head coverings will not be a safety concern.

Busteed said students have been patient throughout the lengthy process to revise the rule and have not worn head coverings to school.

“The students were very respectful,” she said. “They came together. They voiced their opinions.”

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins